When you choose a career in medicine, it doesn’t mean you have to give up your other passions and interests. In Avant’s Training doesn’t have to be fulltime podcast series, Avant’s, Rocky Ruperto, speaks with young doctors about their experiences mixing a medical career with other life pursuits.
Training full time in medicine and working long hours in those early years can leave little time for much else. And for Dr Josh Case, a PGY2 emergency department doctor, after studying and training for the best part of 10 years, he found being a doctor had become a huge part of his identity.
But it wasn’t all of who he is. So, Josh decided to follow his entrepreneurial urges and go part time, so he could launch his tech start-up business.
“I had a strong interest in software and innovation and digital health, and it had been growing from a hobby towards a bit of a side hustle,” Josh recalls. “Eventually I got to professional-level skills and I compared and contrasted that with working in a public health system that in some ways is very dated from a technology sense, and that at times was frustrating and difficult to work with. It got to a point where I just saw such an enormous opportunity for myself that I considered it a bigger risk to not try something a bit different in the short term.”
While many of Josh’s peers want to go part time at some point in their career, not many do it so early. But when he realised, he could still pay his living costs on a part-time income, Josh decided to take the chance.
Going part-time leads to enjoying clinical practice – and life – more
It’s a trade-off between income and free time, but Josh has discovered that by having more time to pursue other interests and invest in his wellbeing and relationships, he’s happier and enjoys his clinical work more.
Josh has chosen to work in emergency and critical care to combine his love of its fast-paced team environment with his interest in helping critically unwell patients, and because ED is more flexible around part-time training.
“I really like the medicine but also the lifestyle advantages of trying something entrepreneurial,” he says. “I would encourage anyone to think broadly about their specialty choice. The actual clinical medicine is important but the type of life you want to lead is also important. Now I have so much more spare time, I’m able to exercise, to see my friends, to spend more quality time with my partner.”
He acknowledges his choice of work-life balance is not for everyone, but feels a more open-minded approach from the profession can only benefit clinicians and medical practice.
“When people say you can’t do this part-time, most of that idea comes from tradition. It does require a shift in thinking, it does require your college and your employer to be forward thinking about how your work-life will be structured, how your roster will be structured. But I think in the long run it is going to lead to happier, more well-rounded clinicians who contribute to their workplace in a way that clinicians never have previously.”
A software sideline that improves the practice of medicine
Josh is using his software development skills to teach other doctors how to write code, and to build apps to improve medical practice. His website lists apps that include an iOS and Android tool to help doctors prescribe blood products in major trauma.
“I’m really trying to forge a career for myself on the boundary between clinical and technical probably in the critical care sense. By using my technical and clinical skills, I hope to make an impact in a way that neither a specialist technical person nor a specialist clinician could,” Josh reflects.
Find a balance that allows you to pursue other interests
When you create the flexibility to combine your medical training with developing another skill, the advantages go beyond a better work-life balance for you. As Josh is proving, mixing his two passions can help benefit patients and the entire healthcare system.
“We live in a world of specialists .... but we need people who can bridge the gap between two different disciplines, who are generalists. I think a combination of generalists and specialists is key to a really cohesive, successful future,” Josh observes.
“[There] might be something … that is a huge part of you that you may not have tapped into fully yet or maybe you’ve stuffed it under the desk in a shoebox while you’ve been trying to get through medical school. But once you get out into the real world, I encourage anyone to get the shoebox out, dust it off and see what’s in there because there’s a whole lot of happiness and opportunity waiting.”
Listen to our full interview with Dr Josh Case, and other early career stage doctors pursuing non-traditional training pathways, here.