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J R Soc Med. 2001 July; 94(7): 366.
PMCID: PMC1281612

Opportunities and Options in Medical Careers

Reviewed by Joanna Chikwe

Ruth Chambers, Kay Mohanna, Steve Field
169 pp Price £17.95 ISBN 1-85775-451-4
Abingdon: Radcliffe Medical Press, 2000 .

This book promises well-informed careers advice—the sort of help that could win jobs and make wilting careers blossom again. As a surgical research fellow at that precarious point between the end of basic training and a specialist registrar post, I opened it with high hopes. And had I been a general practitioner in the making I would have been delighted. The three authors are general practitioners, all with substantial experience as careers counsellors, and the book reflects this special knowledge. The bias towards general practice should have been acknowledged in the title, or at least on the back cover.

The contents fall roughly into three parts—understanding what careers counselling is about, gaining insight into yourself and your goals and, finally, achieving those career goals. The opening detailed account of the differences between careers counselling, guidance and information will come as an unwelcome surprise to many readers drawn to the book by the title. Nor, if you are preoccupied with simply getting a job, will you much appreciate the early chapters that deal with assessing your potential as a career counsellor or how to set up a careers advice service. For the more established practitioners, however, these sections illustrate one way to develop a career portfolio, albeit without much practical advice. A particularly entertaining section consists of the ‘typical’ cases a counsellor might be faced with: Gerald, a poorly performing GP who left surgery under pressure from his wife, after failing the FRCS four times; Cathy, a high flier with an MBA who feels stifled by her partners in general practice; and Donald a glib but popular GP registrar, liked by every partner in the practice except his GP trainer. The learning notes that accompany these case scenarios are instructive.

The section that deals with gaining insight into yourself and your goals takes up the bulk of the book. It has the same strengths and weaknesses as the chapters on careers counselling. The case studies are interesting and there are several ideas to learn from. Once again, however, the authors offer little practical assistance. They cite potentially helpful personality and skills self-assessment questionnaires but do not include them. Nor do they refer to any of the abundant data published by postgraduate deaneries and colleges on the number of applicants and posts in specialty training grades. A career path which remains the way forward for a significant minority—leaving medicine altogether—is not broached constructively. Within three years of graduation, three of my peers had left clinical medicine (the first teaches dance, the second won a gold medal at the Olympics and the third is a management consultant).

The final part, about how to achieve those newly identified goals, is the most disappointing. Only six pages are allocated to this topic on which many readers will be hoping for detailed advice. On the train down to a preinterview interview I read some of the recommendations on ‘Your CV’, ‘Preparing for the interview’, ‘The big day’, ‘The presentation’, ‘Your golden opportunity’ and ‘Referees’—again well written and thought-provoking, but desperately short on useful detail. If general practice is not your chosen specialty, other publications will serve you better.


Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press