Some say switching medical specialties is taking a ‘sideways step’, but the truth is that you’ll never lose the skills and experience you’ve developed so far in your medical career journey.
Two and a half years into a radiology training programme, Dr Cham Ariyasinghe decided to switch medical specialties because “I didn’t love it as much as I should and I felt like I was struggling to commit to it”.
He took up locuming in 2019 to explore the possibilities in different medical specialties. He didn’t expect to end up working on the frontline of a pandemic – but he’s found a lot to be inspired by in his new role.
“Locuming was a means to an end, to explore different options before I decided on what I wanted to do. I was one of those people in med school who generally liked everything but I pigeonholed myself into doing radiology early on during my internship and I didn’t explore other specialities. I think locuming has been a really good opportunity to do that.
“Plus, it’s been six or seven years of my personal life, to work and not take holidays and put everything on the back burner. I knew I wanted to take some chunks out of my life to do what I wanted to do. So, I took two months out last year to go to Europe and hang out with some friends, see some shows and explore a lot of Eastern Europe.
“It was nice to have that time and to take that pressure off for a little while.”
With the pressure off, Dr Cham had more time to think about his other interests and he decided to apply for a position with MSF (Doctors Without Borders).
“MSF only came about because I had that time to think. You can’t really be a radiologist without borders… there’s not a lot of aid work you can do! Locuming was a really good way to explore different areas of medicine without committing to one thing.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Australia, Dr Cham took up a locum registrar position on the frontline in Wodonga, a Victoria/ New South Wales border town. This cemented his interest in outbreak medicine and helped him realise he’d made the right choice.
“I think there’s increasing pressure on junior doctors to really have to know what they want to specialise in early on and I think the reality is, we don’t all make the right choice. Sometimes you just need to explore yourself and explore your options. If you aren’t in a rush to get anywhere, locuming is one of the best deals because you choose your hours, you’re flexible. You choose where and what nature of work you want to do and you learn more about yourself.
“I don't think people hang around in medicine for a long time if they’re not inspired by medicine in some way and I think they get disillusioned by a career in medicine after some time. I think I was in that boat. Especially when I was leaving radiology, I thought about leaving medicine altogether.
“The problem was that there were so many areas that I loved. Being a medical registrar and dealing with complex problems like this Covid-19 job has opened things up for me. Locuming is not for everyone but it has been really good for me. It is a really interesting way to mould your career for a time and I think that should be reiterated especially to junior doctors.”
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