Should I stay or should I go?
Musings on leaving clinical medicine with Jocelyn Lowinger
Jocelyn Lowinger left medicine in the early 2000s and has blazed her own trail ever since, establishing a successful coaching service, Coach GP.
Jocelyn was one of the very first people to reach out to us and offer her time for which we will always be grateful! This conversation was initially intended to become a profile however we ended up in a lengthy discussion about the challenges faced by those of us that suspect clinical practice is not our lifelong calling. We hope you find our musings of value.
The Back Story
Jocelyn started out in General Practice but was ‘very unhappy’. She explains, ‘at one point, I was unwell and had to take two weeks’ sick leave. I never went back!’ She spent some time finding her niche beyond the clinical conveyor belt, with roles in research, medical writing and public health. It was in 2013 that Jocelyn learned first-hand how effective coaching can be when she enlisted an executive coach herself. She explains that rather than dwell on weaknesses, coaching focuses on strengthening what works well in order create new possibilities and achieve full potential. She realised how helpful it would have been to have that kind of support earlier in her career – something we can definitely identify with!
Having found her passion, Jocelyn worked to equip herself with the skills needed to coach others, including gaining an MSc in coach psychology from Sydney University – i.e. she knows her stuff! In 2018 she started Coach GP, through which she coaches doctors from all walks of medical life.
Most people are struggling with confidence in some way
I ask about the issues she is most commonly approached about. ‘Most people are struggling with confidence in some way, whether that is anxiety, imposter syndrome or losing sight of the meaning in their work’. She explains, ‘for a lot people, these feelings have led them to a point of crisis. The come to see me asking for help finding something else they can do’. One thing she is firm about is establishing the root cause of that need to escape – ‘I will not encourage leaving medicine if someone is simply running away. I speak from experience - I ran away and that decision weighed me down for a long time; it undermined my confidence’. Instead, she works with the individual to unpick ‘what it is they are running away from and develop strategies to deal with that’. This often is a successful approach, resulting in people being ‘much happier at work and glad they stayed’. However, inevitably the process does sometimes lead to a concrete decision to pursue a different path.
I will not encourage leaving medicine if someone is simply running away
On leaving medicine
Outside of medicine, you certainly can forge your own way but the path is not always smooth. Jocelyn acknowledges, ‘the space of not being a clinician but using your medical degree is difficult to navigate and something I am very familiar with. I have been working in a non-clinical capacity since 2001. For a long time, I felt I had no peers to share my experiences with’. As an attempt to combat this feeling of isolation, Jocelyn started the Non-Clinical Doctors Australia & NZ Facebook group several years ago. Her goal was ‘to create a space for people to go and share experiences’. A year later, Creative Careers in Medicine started. Between these communities, Jocelyn realised she was not alone.
The space of not being a clinician but using your medical degree is difficult to navigate.
However, although the support networks have undoubtedly improved, taking the plunge and leaving the pathway that has been laid out since day one of medical school is never easy. Jocelyn ensures she focuses on practicalities. ‘My question would be, are you really prepared? If you are planning a career shift that comes with a paycut, would you be able support your current lifestyle? If so, you need to think about how you are going to reduce your spending’. She elaborates, ‘I did medical writing for a long time. I used to get people asking me, “wow, how can I do that?”. I had to break to them that if they did they would be earning probably a third of their current income’.
I can certainly identify with the internal struggle between staying in a stable, clinical job and striking out into the unknown. Jocelyn admits she forced her own hand – ‘having left my training, the need to find alternative work put a focused energy into the search’. However, she acknowledges that ‘if you are on the fence about trying something new, it is easy to keep working, rely on that failsafe and never commit to a decision’. I ask whether she held onto her registration, to keep a foot on the fence. ‘Oh yes! For a long time. I kept telling myself that at some point I would want to go back. At some point I realised it had been a decade and I still didn’t want to!’.
For a long time. I kept telling myself that at some point I would want to go back. At some point I realised it had been a decade and I still didn’t want to!’.
This conversation was unstructured and somewhat unplanned but made me feel considerably better about my own conflicted emotions around leaving medicine. For years, I struggled with endless questions…‘If not this, what else? Could I add another string to my bow that would make me happier in medicine?’. This internal battle, coupled with the challenge of finding comprehensive information the opportunities out there, are two of the driving forces behind BYS. Supporting others in a similar situation is one of our goals and we hope this will be the first conversation of many on the topic.
If you would like to get in touch with Jocelyn, you can contact her here.