Career & Life Advice

A Successful Career Change: From General Practice to Pain Medicine

Sunday, 14 Mar, 2021

Rohan Kamath graduated in India in 2009 and moved to Australia in 2012, passing his AMC examinations at his first attempt. He immediately began working in general practice and passed his FRACGP exams in 2017. Rohan approached me in 2019 wanting advice about a change of career direction and talks here about the process of changing careers.

What prompted you to consider a career change?

Although I really enjoyed general practice, my wife and I will probably move back to India in future and there’s not a significant role for GPs in India because patients tend to go directly to specialists. My wife is training in O&G and I was keen to pursue a specialty that would give me opportunities if we do return to India. I was considering endocrinology but wanted to understand what other options might be available to me.

What did the coaching session involve?

As I had only worked in general practice in Australia, we talked about what I’d need to do to make the transition from general practice to hospital-based training. This included practicalities, like how to present my CV and whether or not I’d be eligible for recognition of prior learning. Jo also helped me think about how to make connections with people in the hospital system who could support and advise me. Although I was keen on endocrinology, we also discussed possible alternatives to endocrinology which might have a shorter pathway as GP Fellowship would count as basic training, such as addiction medicine, sexual health, palliative medicine and pain medicine. Jo sent me information on the areas I was interested in after our session and set out a series of next steps for me to take.

How did you ultimately settle on pain medicine as a career path?

Being in general practice for 8 years, I saw a lot of patients with chronic pain issues that were not well managed and the waiting list to see a pain physician was months if not years. I honestly felt that training in Med School initially and then in Australia to become a GP just didn’t allow me to hone my skills in this less understood space of chronic pain which is what initially led me to consider it seriously. The Fellowship of the Faculty of Pain Medicine ANZCA was a training program that took 2 years if you trained full time in an accredited hospital. The fact that other specialty training programs were taking about 6-7 years made it less practical considering my current situation of probably having to go back to India in a few years time.

What have been the biggest challenges for you in making the transition?

After practising as a GP full time for 8 years I found it hard to get out of my comfort zone and consider other training options.  Also leaving a busy general practice, where I had managed to build a large patient base, it was extremely hard initially to break the news to my regular patients whom I had built a strong therapeutic relationship with over the past 8 years. I felt guilty for leaving them in the lurch having to now find another GP who would be able to look after them, especially complex patients with chronic and complex health issues. It took me some time to come terms with this all and finally make a decision to transition to training further.

How do you feel now that you’ve commenced training in pain medicine?

Fitting into my role as a Pain Fellow in a renowned tertiary hospital was initially quite intimidating. I had never had any exposure to the hospital system as I had done all my training in India as a medical student and then worked as a GP for 8 years after coming to Australia, being eligible to sit the FRACGP exams through the practice experience pathway. So the first few weeks was all about getting myself oriented to the entire hospital system and the protocols involved. This was made easy by a very supportive group of consultants and registrars who took the time to explain all the processes and procedures that I needed to familiarise myself with. It has been a very steep learning curve so far where I have been exposed to a whole new field of expertise. I expect the next 2 years to be quite productive in terms of being able to upskill and manage complex presentations with issues related to chronic pain and its management.

Do you have any advice for doctors seeking a change of career direction?

Just that it is possible. It is simple. There are a lot of options. Do not be afraid to explore these options. Ask for help from professionals who are familiar with the process. It can be very rewarding.

Would you recommend working with Jo? Why?

Jo has simply been amazing. The entire process felt so easy. Jo took the time to listen to, and understand my situation, my needs and my expectations. I always felt that the session was centred around what I wanted to achieve. It was easy for me to ask questions and raise any doubts. Jo’s background in healthcare also made it particularly helpful to discuss all the relevant options for me to consider. I would highly recommend working with Jo. Changing career paths can be a difficult road to travel if you don’t have the right guidance and resource. Jo will be sure to make it easier for you to take that next step.

Changing career direction is certainly challenging but, as Rohan’s story demonstrates, with the right approach it’s definitely possible. If you’d like to start thinking about your options, get in touch.


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