Entering a career in medicine is a big decision which has a huge and long-lasting impact on day-to-day living, work-life balance and sustainability.

Of the doctors in training I coach, many did not give the consideration necessary to decide if this was the right career for them. For many reasons they can find themselves on this demanding career path, unaware and unprepared for what it involves.

Excelling in science, wanting a competitive career with status, following a role model, wanting to help people are some of the reasons given, as well as having been cajoled into medicine by teachers or parents

However often, no thought has been given to whether medicine might meet their personality preferences, their interests, their values and their lifestyle.

Perhaps most importantly I hear trainees saying that they have lost purpose and meaning and question what they really want from career and life.

It is easy to avoid this deeper question as they progress through the training route as there are very clear milestones to tick-off. Trainees can say ‘I’ll just get my F2 year out of the way’ or ‘I’ll just get my GP qualification’ or even ‘I’ll just get my CCT’ before I start thinking about what else I could do.’

However the delay in questioning motivation can cause great unhappiness and dissatisfaction along the way.


I saw two doctors for career coaching recently, both of whom complained of lack of purpose

One had been driven to achieve and compete and had been goal orientated all his academic life. However, after 7 years in training, he is now lamenting, saying: ‘My life is empty, meaningless and I feel purpose-less’. He drove himself to be the best at every point and had even chosen the most competitive specialty, only to discover that he now hates it!

Another doctor commented that: they have almost no memory of academic years at medical school as they just kept their head down and worked flat out.

She now says: ‘I want to enjoy the journey and what is happening now! I don’t even know what the destination is but I want the freedom to explore different possibilities and see what gives me meaning and makes my heart sing before I set any long term goals ‘.

I have seen other doctors who, through reflecting deeply on the question of purpose and meaning, have renewed their commitment to medicine but with a renewed sense of motivation in the knowledge of why they are following this path.

@Cathy Brown and I run workshops on ‘Finding your Purpose’ for doctors. It would be great to hear other views from doctors who have lost their drive and motivation and would like to find meaning in their work again.

If you are interested in joining a workshop, please contact gilly.careers@gmail.com to find out more.