Monday, 9 July 2012

Leaving the wrong job....?

For the last 5 years, I have had a vacation job during university holidays: I work in a museum. Not the small stuffy kind, the large, over a million visitors a year, amazing site, kind. It's had minor ups and downs over the lsat five years, but overall I have totally enjoyed it. I've been very lucky.

 This is not my museum! But it is a good one. Thanks to for the picture.

I went back to work there recently after many months away (final exams) and was struck by a number of positives in this job which don't exist in medicine. I should have blogged about it at the time, but perhaps writing now will jog my thinking.

I love how in this job there is a team spirit, sometimes it's us against the world/tourists/tour group leaders/supervisors/powers that be, and that can unite a team, and sometimes it's us generally putting effort into ensuring that tourists and customers have a memorable few hours at our site, together. As a student it's difficult to really be "involved" in any hospital team, but none of the teams I've had anything to do with have had a team spirit that I could sense from my position as a student at the edge of the team.

One thing that particularly struck me is the culture of respect. It's a big group of people so of course some people grate on others a little, but even so there is a sense that the staff respect each other. In particular, people respect the supervisors, but not just because they're supervisors, but because a) they're (mostly) good at their supervising, b) are nice people, and c) they respect us. In medicine it sometimes feels like the seniors are respected because they demand respect, not because they deserve it. It creates a very different culture. It's not a big deal, and it's only noticeable when you start to think about it, or when you've been working elsewhere that doesn't have such a culture.

Recently in the museum a slight change in the system was trialled, and the supervisor asked my group of assistants for our thoughts and feedback - the senior staff genuinely want to know what the "junior" staff, the people actually implementing the changes, think about it, and will take those comments on board. It's not often that I've seen seniors in medicine asking for juniors' thoughts and feedback, except in a grilling and knowledge-testing sense.

Even at the busiest and most stressful times, people are generally happy and still so willing to help each other out. Again, not always evident in medicine. But maybe the stress is different - in the museum stressful times means long queues, angry customers, obnoxious tour group leaders etc. In medicine stressful times can mean the weight of the responsibility for patient's lives, especially when the line between a patient living or dying starts to thin. Perhaps the difference is stress contexts explains the differences in atmosphere here.

A colleague, for whom this is also "just" a vacation job, asked me today if I don't find this job a bit menial, since I have a good degree and will be a highly qualified professional (clearly indicating he finds it menial for this reason). I first told him he needed a slap, then pointed out I have two good degrees! Just because I'll be a qualified professional, in a totally different area to this job, doesn't mean this job is beneath me. It has taught me a great many skills, such as: communicating across language barriers and cultural barriers, communicating with children, diplomacy and tact in customer service, particularly with difficult customers (which transfers to diplomacy and tact in dealing with patients, particularly "difficult patients"), conveying complicated information in a way the recipient will understand, and the ever-useful skills of voice projection and crowd control. None of these are medical skills, but all of them are likely to be useful during my medical career. That's not something to sniff at.
There is the additional benefit that this role has enabled me to be competent and above all, confident, in dealing with many, many people, and confidence is not something one can acquire overnight, or just by magic or good intentions. The confidence I've gained from putting effort into this job, and knowing from the responses from colleagues and customers that I'm doing it well and making a small diference to someone's day, is something I couldn't have gained simply from being a medical student. A medical student I've found is frequently too much of a fifth wheel to have much of a sense of achievement (that's not to say that achievements aren't made, but just not on the same level).

Now the terrible bit is that I realised recently how much I enjoy this job, and how many of the things are appreciate are not present in medicine. I could only wonder why I'm leaving a job I've enjoyed, for one that predominantly scares me, in an environment which I don't always enjoy or feel respected or comfortable in. It feels a little bit mad.

Perhaps part of the reason I've enjoyed the job is because I know I won't be doing it forever, and perhaps if I were I would have a different approach to it. But I hadn't really thought about the fact that I would one day be leaving this job, in order to take up my forever-job, (the one I've been studying seven year for) but now it's suddenly here, and I'm leaving tomorrow. I'm really not sure if I want to!

I can at least be thankful that I've had employment which I enjoy, to return to every holiday (and some weekends), in a group where I feel part of the team even if I've been away for months, and have been able to go through my education with far more financial security than I otherwise would have.

After all, if medicine all goes pear-shaped, I might always have a nice job to return to! I could be a museum-doctor.

First, I have to get through, and make the most of, my last day tomorrow. It feels like the end of an era, and it feels silly to leave a job I like*. Needs must....

(*It was suggested to me that I'd have enough holiday from my doctor-job to return to my museum job occasionally, but 1. I do quite like the idea of having a holiday which is entirely a holiday, no job or revision or essay-writing to have to do, and 2. most importantly, I couldn't justify it. I'd be on a nice NHS salary, taking part-time holiday work away from school leavers, students and other people who really need the money, when I really won't - that's not right, and I wouldn't have particularly wanted someone earning good money to take my shifts away from me the last few years, when I've needed the money.)

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