Ashe Coxton is a General Practitioner and founder of Medical Career Planning, a career planning service tailored towards doctors seeking advice on career development and counselling. Ashe holds a Masters of Clinical Education and a Graduate Certificate in Career Development, coaching doctors nationally and internationally about their career plans.
For me, getting into medicine was a bit of what I call ‘plain happenstance’. I always enjoyed learning of biology, medicine and about the human body and a few school teachers had said to me ‘What about medicine?’. I thought, well, why not give it a go? To be honest, I never really knew what area of medicine I liked as a medical student, I was just focused on passing my exams and becoming a doctor. I don't think a lot of medical students do think about where they want to be, but then you're in the hospital and you become an intern. Internship was such a busy year for me. All I knew was that I wasn't really liking what I was actually doing as an intern. That’s when the seeds of medical career planning started. I thought ‘gosh, why isn't there someone that can give you some independent, impartial advice that isn't your employer?’. At the time, I kept looking and looking and eventually I found general practice and I really loved it. The training program provided flexibility to figure out what you did like in medicine because it’s such a general career.
To help doctors! These highly motivated, highly intelligent people who have such ability to make such a huge impact on the world, in some cases haven't realized what they want to do yet. The saddest thing for me is seeing doctors leave medicine or follow a career pathway that just doesn't make them happy when there is so much potential to do something else to make such a big difference to medicine.
I love medical education for so many reasons. You can make someone's training and experience an enjoyable process. I started doing Master of Clinical Education whilst I was doing my GP training. I love the fact that as an educator you can make that difference. You can make it interesting; you can make it fun, and you can teach in many different ways. I love the challenge of thinking about the group of people you're teaching and thinking about how they learn best. Is it classroom teaching? Is it small group learning? Is it one on one, is it online? When you train as a Medical educator you are in this safe, supportive room of people that actually are there to make the medical student or the junior doctor or the registrar or consultant’s education a better journey.
One memorable story came from a staff specialist, I won't say what specialty they came from, but they said to me ‘I just want to leave medicine, What other careers outside of medicine could you see me doing?’. The whole process of counselling isn't just to jump in and say what they would be good at or what career they should do. It's to try and challenge their thinking, but also their past experiences and where they see themselves going in the future to be able to let them come up with the answers themselves.
It took a little while to figure it out, but we identified that they were overbooked and stressed out in their clinics, and after recommending they try and reduce the amount of referrals coming and amount of bookings. A few months later they contacted me and said, I’ve cut down half my clinic patients, I’m loving talking to my patients again, I love my job, I’m so glad I didn’t quit.
A lot of doctors feel like once they're working in a hospital, they're just a hospital doctor. It's not until you speak to doctors that have gone part-time or have taken time off or have put their selves before their job that you feel like you can have permission to do that yourself. I know when I was working as a junior doctor it felt like you were slack if you said ‘no, no I want to go to my net ball game’ or ‘I can't work over time’ or ‘I want to go to my family wedding on the weekend’. I think what there's now a real move to try and make hospital doctors understand, especially the junior doctors that there's more to life and you don't need to sacrifice what you love to try and make it work.
I know it's not economical and it's not probably the way hospitals work, but I'd love to see hospitals allowing their doctors a bit more space in their working environment to pursue some more creative interests in medicine. Getting involved in administration, helping writing policies for their department, doing some different things within the hospital system that could really enhance a person's interests in medicine. There’s a wide variety of things such as health economics, health informatics, getting involved in digital health, and health promotion that one can get involved with.
I think I find it very frustrating personally, knowing that people feel they have to change their careers completely because a college has a set of rules that are so inflexible. I know there are reasons for those rules, but when you speak to someone who's a year away from completing their ICU training, but for whatever reason they can't take leave that they desperately need to get to sort their life out, this doctor is going to turn around and have to do something completely different because the set of rules are so rigid. I find that very difficult to understand.
What would you regret not doing the most in life?
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