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‘I got the job!’ I squeal as I click open the confirmation email. I’ve been accepted to subspecialty training and am a little closer to becoming a consultant.
There’s just one small problem, the job is at the wrong end of the country. My partner, also a medic, is progressing through his training in a similarly niche and sought-after specialty. ‘I just can’t move right now.’ he says, sheepishly. And then there’s the little one to think of. ‘How on earth are we going to make this work?’ I ask myself, head in hands.
I’m sure my situation does not sound at all surprising or unfamiliar; regularly moving is an inevitable part of training, a fact that we generally accept and try to fit the rest of our lives around. But lengthy training programmes mean this need to relocate often extends well beyond our formative years, when the thought of a new town, city or country becomes less of an exciting opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and more of a dreaded logistical nightmare.
Moving costs us time and money. While trusts are supposed to assist with these costs the reality is that reimbursements are usually only partial and difficult to apply for.
Understandable, then, that many doctors choose not to move, instead opting for long commutes that we know aren’t safe. In a recent study reported by the BMJ it was reported that almost half of consultant anaesthetists have had a car accident or near miss on their commute home because of fatigue.
And it’s not just the logistics that can be a nightmare. Movement breeds isolation. Studies have shown that scores on depression and anxiety scales peak shortly after a move to a new geographical area, with loss of proximity to familiar social support networks appearing to have a big part to play.
Add to this the need to familiarise trainees with a whole host of local working practices, along with the interruption to professional mentorship from colleagues, and it seems like regularly moving is a receipt for stress and unhappiness in an already demanding profession.
There’s no magic solution to the problems associated with the relocations that are sometimes necessary during training. But perhaps focusing on identifying and reducing these potential risks, along with closer scrutiny of employers to ensure that the support needed around relocation is properly provided, may help to mitigate some of the stress and unhappiness experienced by the nomadic trainee.
Maria Kiesler is a junior doctor. She writes under a pseudonym
BMA employment and careers advice
I completely agree with Maria. I am commuting 4 hours per day (2 hours each way) between home and work due to a relocation and inability to move to the new area immediately. When working a 13-hour shift with 4 hours of commuting each day, there are only 7 hours left in which to eat, sleep and get ready for the next day - let alone having time to do anything else outside of work such as spending time with family/friends, exercise and other hobbies/interests.