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Your career post-graduation: understanding your own priorities

06 May 2022

Rosemary Pitsi, a medical doctor at Kuruman district hospital, shares their experiences of forging their medical career following graduation. 


If there is one thing that has taken me by surprise as a junior doctor is how uncertain I am about my future career path. As an undergraduate student, I was under the impression that if I just pass my degree, I am sure to have every other aspect of my life figured out.

Once the elation of graduation and the extravagance of being a paid professional wore off, I was faced with the overwhelming lack of information regarding post graduate education while facing the pressure to commit to a path. How to keep track of my continuous development? How to accommodate ones quality of life and still prioritise ones medical career? And most importantly, whether my choices would still yield a positive impact for community that I serve? 

Having had many introspective sessions that have brought me to spend a Friday afternoon studying (yet again). I would like to share three questions three questions that I worked through when coming to a final decision:

1. What kind of personal life do I want to lead at the peak of my medical career?
In discussion with a senior consultant, she told me that before all else, you need to decide on the quality of life that you want to live and then proceed to find a division of medicine that best accommodates that. This really resonated with me especially coming from a senior at the peak of her career. It allowed me the guilt-free comfort to build the personal life that I want while pursuing my professional career at my own pace.

2. Am I more medically or surgically inclined, and what are the relevant stages through which one can progress?
It a common question in medicine, but a relevant one. Deciding which side appeals to you is related to which part of patient management (all sides being equally important) gives you the most satisfaction. Furthermore, in the modern day era of healthcare, roles like healthcare management, health technology and innovation, as well as medical research, are growing fields of specialism.

Besides specialising to become a consultant, one could pursue higher certificates, diplomas or even write primary and intermediate exams in one field of choice. This staggered approach holds the advantage of allowing you to gain experience in that branch of medicine and gives you credible points at which you can reassess your decision.

3. Following the predetermined milestones of undergraduate studies, how does one regulate their progress and keep their skills up-to-date while working?
The continuous development programme is a universal programme that is dedicated to supporting and holding you accountable to completing activities and achieving skills that render you a competent doctor. There are many institutions with whom you can register. I would recommend registering with a company that your healthcare facility is most familiar with.        

As a junior doctor, there are few courses that come highly recommended in helping you feel comfortable and competent to handle medical emergency, eg. BLS (basic life support) and ACLS (advanced cardiac life support), ANLS (advanced neonatal life support), AMLS (advanced medical life support), PALS (paediatric advanced life support), ATLS (advanced trauma life support), BSS (basic surgical skills) and BTES (basic trauma and emergency surgery) and a basic ultrasound course.   
Finally, we have been trained to function in one of the most high pressure industries in the world, and taking that into account, I have made a commitment to have a bit of grace with myself and journey I am embarking on. We all deserve that.

It is certainly not the only way one can approach future decision making, but it is a simple approach relieves anxiety and assures you that you are still making relevant progress. 

Good luck, and I trust that we will all find a space in healthcare that is best suited for us.

Rosemary Pitsi is a medical doctor currently working at Kuruman district hospital in the Northern Cape. She is also the co-founder of Medtimes, a new medical rostering platform that allows you to create call rosters and produce timesheets, as well as the founder of the non-profit organisation, Book Buddies. Book Buddies is aimed at improving literacy for comprehension purposes in children from underprivileged backgrounds.