Giving up my license to practice

walking across field

It felt so cool getting my full GMC registration. In a weird, geeky way it felt like the James Bond part of a medical degree – a Licence to Practice! I was strangely proud and excited.

But today I gave it up.

It was so easy to do – just a simple form to fill on the GMC website, and that’s it. It takes seven years to get that license, and seven seconds to let it go.

I’m still keeping my registration, because for some reason I still feel the need to have a connection with my old profession. I considered renewing my license for another year ‘just in case’, but I can’t really justify the expense as I’m not working clinically and have absolutely no intention of doing so any time soon.

I know it’s reversible. I know it doesn’t make any difference to what I’m doing now, and that it doesn’t take away anything I’ve achieved.

And yet, it still hurts.

It feels like signing the final paperwork in a complicated divorce. I hated Medicine, but I loved it too. As much as we didn’t suit each other, we were together long enough for it to become a huge part of my identity, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

This week, the new F1s take their first fledgling steps in their new jobs, and junior doctors all over the country rotate into new specialties. The turmoil of the last year seems to have had no effect on the numbers of people applying for F1 training – which doesn’t surprise me really. For many it’s their first ever job, and it’s a chance to explore the profession and get a full registration.

I’m floating away from that world. I feel the bonds breaking and the distance widening. I sometimes look back in nostalgia, with that uncomfortable feeling that you were never really right together, but at the same time, you found a way to shift along well enough, and you did have some good moments.

There are times when I catch myself missing it terribly, particularly when I think about how great it was to communicate with patients. I was good at that, and it was the best part of the job. I recently comforted a friend of mine after a scan showed an unwelcome diagnosis, and in her gratitude for explaining things more fully, she lamented my leaving the medical profession, and wished that her doctors were more like me.

It was kind of her to say so, but in reality, when I was working as a doctor I never felt I had enough time to spend with patients to explain, to comfort and to guide, and I was often so exhausted that I could barely muster the energy to care very much. I can only smile at the idea of being a better doctor now that I’m out of the profession, and it makes me ashamed to think of what I was.

I think, having been a doctor, it never truly leaves you. There are some things that, once learned, can never be unlearned. Medicine is strangely addictive in that way.

But I can’t deny that I’m much happier where I am. Looking back and romanticizing my former life simply isn’t sensible, and I am in danger of seeing things through the rose-coloured glasses of hindsight.

It’s time to hang up my stethoscope and move on.


3 thoughts on “Giving up my license to practice”

  1. Hi Peach

    I’m currently a FY2 and found you blog last year when I was feeling pretty despondent myself. I found that I only started to enjoy the job when I started facing the more difficult challenges that medicine presents (rather than just paperwork which a house officer does in hours on a ward job). I find that pushing myself and by feeling myself improve as a doctor very satisfying. Having said this I reached a point where I had to effectively “give in” to medicine. A point where I realised there was no use comparing my job to that of my friends, who work in other professions, with their regular hours, flexible holidays and professional perks (not to mention the higher salary). It’s only when I treat the job as an extension of med school (albeit with much more responsibility) and as an environment to continue learning that I found I could look forward to the challenges of the job, rather than just seeing the stress and the bad hours.

    It’s this change in attitude through which I have found the motivation to work out of hours as well on continuing to learn and develop. This has helped me change my mind from “I’ll probably be a GP” to setting my sights on one of the more competitive specialties. To be a good GP is incredibly hard, but mainly for the reasons there are many more soft skills required, whilst also being able to make a good clinical diagnosis alone, plus having infinite amounts of patience and more face to face patient contact than other Dr’s.

    In short I now understand why Dr’s are pretty annoying people to non-medics. It can’t just be a job really; you have to let it seep into all the cracks of your life.

    Have you read Samuel Shem’s book “The House of God” by the way? Great read.

    1. Hi, thank you for your comment!

      I’m really glad you’ve found satisfaction and peace in your career. I think attitude is so important – your mindset can dictate how you see your job. I am curious to know what caused the change in attitude for you? Was it a particular event or was it a gradual change?

      I haven’t read House of God but I had a peek of the blurb online and it looks good!

      1. There are a few things I think helped cause the change in attitude:

        1) The first is common for all jobs. The fact that as you gain more experience the job becomes less stressful, as you have more of a clue of what you are doing and you therefore find the day to day job less worrisome. This plus the fact that the more senior you become the less dogsbody work you have to do.

        2) The types of jobs I did – I did a busy gen surg job first followed by a supernumerary position on a psych ward (glorified secretary). With both of these jobs I had little to no autonomy. My next two jobs were an on call job (medical and surgical long days, nights and twilights) and A+E. Whilst these are killers for your personal life and not great for your health, they are much more interesting jobs, as you are just dealing with the admissions and sickies so you can actually start working people up yourself and learning new procedures.

        3) Honesty with myself about the type of person I am and what I enjoy. I am good at the communication/rapport side of medicine. I can usually suss out what type of person the patient is and find some way to connect with them to allow them to feel listened too whilst also achieving what I want (usually to turf them out of the ED feeling that they’ve got good treatment and are feeling reassured.) However, I’ve realised that I cannot make talking the cornerstone of my medical career (such as when I was thinking I would pursue GP) as I find doing procedures and developing my own skills much more satisfying.

        4) I also enjoy fixing problems and moving on. This goes in line with the last point. I think we are all shocked in medicine just how many problems are unsolvable, either because the treatments only delay the inevitable, or because so much of a patients perception of their progress can be altered by their psychological state.

        These points together have helped me come to the conclusion that a career in T&O surgery would suit me best. Bone broke, me fix.

        I look forward to your next update

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