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How COVID-19 has challenged not just doctors’ workloads but their career paths

COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way in the past two years. No-one has been immune to the upheaval the pandemic caused (and still causes), including those in the medical industry.

The pandemic has led to a shortage of doctors, which in turn has led to an increase in the number of hours worked by medical professionals. As a result, many doctors have been forced to work longer hours to cover the backlog of patients, putting them at risk of burnout. In addition, doctors cannot simply walk out after working eight hours to go home to their families. Patients always come first. And while this is commendable, it is often at the expense of many doctors’ health and careers.

In many sectors there is a ‘Great Resignation’ under way, with many people leaving jobs due to factors including a re-examination of goals, financial situation, workplace and home location. Some doctors are also assessing whether or not they want to continue working in this field.

In this article, we delve into how COVID has impacted doctors professionally. What the public sees – doctors treating patients and working with other healthcare practitioners in hospital wards (all while keeping their distance and wearing masks) – is only a part of their everyday responsibilities and challenges.

The added worry of COVID spreading meant doctors had to take risks to their own and their families’ health into account, much more than before. For many, the focus on forging a career path took a back seat, and workplace stress took on a whole new meaning.

COVID impact on medical careers

While the past two years have been anything but typical, working as a health professional in a hospital means it is a struggle to juggle work/life balance while managing a heavy workload. This can leave you feeling left behind when it comes to your career.

Let us go back two years, to just before the pandemic hit. You were thinking about landing your dream job or building a portfolio career. Application deadlines were approaching, but you had plenty of time. Time to update your CV, submit your application and prepare for interviews. No need to rush – there was more than enough time.

Until there wasn’t. The pandemic hit, and everything changed. Job interviews moved online, and some long-planned career moves were put on hold:

Revisit your career path opportunities

Medicine is one of the most respected professions in the world. It is also one of the most demanding and challenging careers. Doctors have to be knowledgeable, skilled and compassionate. They need to be able to work with people from all walks of life and in all kinds of situations.

There are many areas of specialty that doctors can work toward. For example, they can choose to work in a hospital setting or within private practice. Or they can choose to transition to a career path outside the medical profession.

If your career path in the medical profession has stagnated in the past two years, then now is the time to resurrect it. Hopefully, your workload has been reduced to something more manageable, so take the time to revisit your career path and dream role. Then, take the steps necessary to turn it into a reality. Whether it is a promotion or to create a portfolio career, only you can make it happen.

Now that the pressures of the pandemic are easing, what’s next? 

With the effects of the pandemic easing and restrictions lifted, it is time to focus on your career again. First, take the time to review and update your CV. Then, find and apply for jobs and leadership role opportunities.

The pandemic may have delayed your career path, but it hasn’t stopped it. You can move ahead now, even if it means changing the direction of your career.

Re-examine the best options to help you move toward your preferred role. Seek help with clarifying what you need to do next, transforming your CV and preparing to deliver impactful interview performance. Make your career a priority.

Anita Fletcher is a career coach for medical practitioners.

She frequently helps doctors to plan for and remediate challenging situations without losing sight of their ambitions or the people they serve.

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