View from a Surgeon: The 4 most difficult stages of becoming a consultant

View from a Surgeon: The 4 most difficult stages of becoming a consultant

First, every commitment you make toward your future feels like a sacrifice…

You are just starting your first consultant post and training yourself to adapt to the new (often intimidating) commitments you’ve signed yourself up for – it’s important to be aware of the mental journey you’re going to be traveling along, in addition to the physical one.

There will be ups and there will most certainly be downs along the way. If you’re careful to learn from your mistakes and minimize the negative outcomes as much as possible, you’ll stand a very real chance for succeeding

Making the definitive decision to take up a substantive consultant post and create the lifestyle you want to live, is worth any amount of hard work; mental and physical.

In my experience, these are the 4 most difficult mental stages of the arduous journey to becoming a successful consultant

The Sacrifice.

This is by far the most mentally trying stage of the journey. At first, everything you do (and achieve) will feel like an immense sacrifice. When your friends are all hanging out together on a Friday night, you’re at the hospital working on call, teaching students and/or junior doctors, or completing the never ending pile of paper work.

You’re likely to frequently question yourself, doubt the work you’re doing, and seek outside approval to help you justify all of the time and hard work you’re putting in.

Your partner will undoubtedly be on your case to get home in time for dinner, to take time to do things together instead you fall asleep on the sofa in the middle of Emmerdale and you find your kids start laughing at you as you “nod” on the sofa.

However, the reality is you only have a limited amount of time outside of the hours you already commit to your day job, so if you want to become successful there’s no other choice than to utilize the time you do have, and make sure you allocate it to loved ones that are all too often forgotten about.

The Grind.

Now that you’ve become comfortable with the discomfort that is learning new skills, and sharing your ideas with the department and colleagues, you start to get into a rhythm. You’ll move into a routine that helps you maximize your productivity, so that you’re spending an optimal time between your practice  and your outside life.

During this stage, you’ll start picking up momentum and experiencing bigger highs with more frequency than when you were just getting started. You’ve eliminated the regular feelings of self-doubt, and can focus on growing your reputation.

The Life.

You are earning a good living, but you question is there something missing? You have a good patient base and you are providing a good service. Your confidence is growing and you are maybe taking on more management responsibilities. you are starting to branch out and develop interests. You may even be gaining a regional or national reputation for something unique that you offer

This is likely the phase in which you’ll finally meet your minimum income criteria for adapting within your day job to focus on growing a private practice. It’s exhilarating to be working on your project with all of your time & energy.

The Freedom.

After all of your hard work, you have a lot to be proud of.

Your practice has achieved recognition and you’re able to scale your clinics and operations much more quickly now that you have the time, energy, and mental clarity to focus on your long term vision.

You’re able to step away at times and trust the systems and people you’ve put in place to help keep things on track, while you enjoy the lifestyle benefits.

Never stop challenging yourself or pushing the boundaries, and operating with discomfort. It’s how we all grow.

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