Professional support

This page includes articles on maintaining / developing yourself as a professional

Careers and coaching

Doctors and medical students with mental health problems often query their choice of career or speciality during their illness or afterwards. Apart from friends and colleagues, there are individuals and companies specialising in career guidance for doctors. Some of these are listed below.  

​DSN has not assessed the quality of these services and if you choose to use any of them, it will be your own responsibility.

Career Support 

Doctors' Support Network 2016 Caroline Elton mental health
Dr Caroline Elton is a freelance chartered psychologist who now specialises in career guidance for doctors and dentists having previously run the Careers Unit of the London Deanery.                       
Doctors' Support Network 2016 Medic Footprints mental health
An independent medic-led organisation which promotes a diverse range of alternative careers opportunities and wellbeing initiatives for doctors.
Other Options for Doctors - an independent career consultancy service for doctors who are looking for fulfilling careers in medicine or exploring alternative careers elsewhere.

Coaching for doctors

Doctors' Support Network 2016 Dr Jo Bowen mental health
Dr Jo Bowen runs an independent stress clinic, both face to face and online from her base in Devon. One of her specialisms is dealing with the stress that medics face. Her background is psychiatry and she now offers psychotherapy, counselling and coaching, including CBT, EMDR and clinical hypnotherapy, all part of a person centred and evidence based treatment.

Jo is happy to offer DSN members a 25% reduction on fees for the online service which are usually £60/hour or session.

Contact her directly ( and see more about the service) via Jo is happy to talk about whether she can help you via phone or email.
Doctors' Support Network 2017 Dr Fiona Day mental health
Fiona Day Consulting empowers doctors and professionals to transform their working lives using evidence based psychological theory and behaviour change science.  

07913 917330

Fiona is a Consultant in Public Health Medicine with 25 years experience in wellbeing and resilience who is also a fully qualified 'Executive Coach'.  Read on to find out why Fiona thinks every doctor would benefit from working with an Executive Coach.

5 reasons why every Doctor should work with an Executive Coach to improve their working lives and careers

Doctors are under a lot of pressure, from stepping into system leadership roles, managing demand, expectations and complexity, funding issues... the list of challenges continues to grow. Executive Coaching provides an evidence based alternative to counselling for doctors wanting to make changes in their working lives and careers around topics such as wellbeing, career planning and leadership skills development.   

I see a lot of doctors as coaching clients who feel their working lives have got out of balance and are feeling on the edge, are recovering from an episode of burnout or ill health, or who wonder 'is this it?', 'have I made the right career choices?'. We work together to understand their own deeply held values and motivators, their needs, their basic personality traits, and use cutting edge behaviour change theory to develop plans and actions to begin to transform their careers. Finding meaning and satisfaction in the workplace really matters to most doctors and taking action to (re)create vitality and wellbeing at work is entirely possible. 

1. Help you to understand yourself and your context
‘We know how we feel when we hear ourselves speak’ is an old counselling adage and a skilled Executive Coach will be able to help you to understand yourself, what is happening in your career and work life at the moment, and why you might be feeling under pressure, having difficult relationships at work or at home, why you might be feeling overwhelmed or in a downward spiral. For those in leadership roles, the Executive Coach will help you understand what clinical leadership is, and what kind of leader you want to be. Understanding the present situation is a first step in gaining insight into what needs to change in the future.

2. Help you to clarify what you want the future to look like and how you are going to get there
Executive Coaching is future focused, that is to say it is about what you want and how you are going to get more of what you want in your life generally as well as your career. This is very much dependent on each person individually, but for many doctors they want a better work-life balance, better relationships at work, greater wellbeing, sense of meaning and purpose, or new skills to stretch themselves in clinical leadership roles. The Executive Coach will work with you to be really clear what you want in the future and will help you to identify the steps you need to take to get more of what you want, starting immediately.

3. Support you to develop new skills and approaches to implement the changes you wish to see to build your resilience
If making changes in our working lives was easy, we’d have done them already! Making change is actually very difficult, it may involve stepping out of learned ways of behaving, communicating our needs clearly and seeing if they are reasonably met by others, and continuing in the direction of travel even when things get difficult. An Executive Coach will ‘be on your own side’ walking every step of the way with you and helping you to overcome obstacles (real or perceived) to help you fulfil your potential and have a career which better suits your needs. For example I teach basic mindfulness skills which transforms doctors’ abilities to notice their thoughts and emotions on a moment by moment basis and also to be able to take effective action in line with what deeply matters to them in the face of difficulty and set backs.

4. Help you to draw out your own learning through reflection and experimentation with new ways of thinking and behaving
Making changes at work and in our careers means we have to step out of our comfort zone, and can mean experiencing short term pain for longer term gain. Cultivating a ‘beginner’s mind’ and a willingness to experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving are necessary skills and an Executive Coach will help you to draw out your own learning and insights throughout the Coaching relationship.

5. Challenge your thinking where necessary in a supportive and helpful way
Human beings are not skilled at giving feedback generally, we avoid conflict and international research has found that giving feedback is an area which most managers say they dread, which is reflected in most people’s experience of receiving such feedback! Executive Coaches are trained to challenge their client’s thinking in a supportive and helpful way and the Coach can often be the only person a client feels they can truly depend upon to give them balanced and unbiased feedback. Coaching is a relationship of equals, we are all ‘climbing our own mountains’, and the Coach can often see what is ahead of you on your own mountain in a way which you may not be able to see it for yourself, and can give you honest feedback on how you present yourself which can lead to invaluable insights for the client.

Thinking of working with an Executive Coach? 
Find out what to look for in an Executive Coach in Fiona's next article for DSN.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) while not working

There is no expectation from either the General Medical Council or the medical colleges for doctors to maintain their CPD commitment whilst either on long-term sick leave or not working at all due to ill health. However, if you are well enough to consider undertaking any CPD, there are potential benefits to be gained such as intellectual achievement leading to increased wellbeing, maintaining your medical knowledge as well as facilitating a future return to work. 
Doctors' Support Network 2016 BMJs mental health
Some ideas of where to start:
  • Journal reading - Obvious, but where most of us begin if only to reduce the mountain of unread journals awaiting our return to work.
  • Internal teaching sessions - For employed doctors - If feeling well enough, it is possible to ask if you may attend relevant formal teaching sessions at your place of work.
  • External paid for courses - For employed doctors - If your medical advisers agree that you are well enough to undertake some CPD while on long term sick leave, then it may be worth asking your employer if they will consider funding relevant course fees.
  • Deanery - Your local deanery may offer a variety of learning opportunities for doctors within the region. If you are on long-term sick leave from an NHS post, you are likely to be able to access some valuable learning sessions for free or at reasonable cost.
  • BMA Library ​The BMA has a full medical library service for members with access to books and journals. Books are posted out to you by the library and returned at your expense. It is also possible to request copies of journal articles. FREE for BMA members
  • BMJ learning - Excellent website with hundreds of online modules on clinical and relevant non clinical career development topics. FREE for BMA members.  
  • BMJ Portfolio can be used to log your BMJ Learning modules as well as other learning experiences. FREE  
  • Colleges: E-learning - Your college may offer free e-learning modules via their website. N.B. The Royal College of General Practice has some excellent free (for anyone) modules including the e-learning session for the Health for Healthcare Practitioners course.
  • Courses & conferences - Colleges may offer a reduced rate for retired members and it is worth asking if you could be treated as retired for the purpose of paying conference fees if you are on a career break due to ill health. 
  • Medical Protection Society - The MPS offers an excellent series of risk management workshops which are free to members including those with deferred (free) membership. FREE for MPS members.  
  • Information Technology (IT) training - If you are not working and in receipt of a government benefit such as Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA) you may be able to access relevant IT training without cost. There are many different providers, each with their own specific funding criteria in this field. One example of the type of IT training available is the European Computer Driving Licence ( ECDL ) which is widely recognised by the NHS as a badge of proficiency in the use of software applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The ECDL qualification counts as 40 hours of CPD and, depending on the provider, may often be mainly completed at your convenience, online at home. Your local Jobcentre Plus may be able to provide you with suggestions of appropriate local IT training providers. Alternatively, your local Adult Education service may offer free IT training for benefit claimants.​ FREE for JSA or ESA claimants
  • Tax allowances for CPD expenses - If you are still employed or working as a doctor in some capacity, expenses incurred for CPD events may be allowable against tax. You will need to inform the Inland Revenue of your claim for adjustment of your tax allowance
Link to BMJ Careers article 'CPD while not working'
Updated 2016

The above advice is offered in good faith but it is the reader’s responsibility to assess whether it is appropriate to follow the advice in their own situation. Neither the Doctors' Support Network nor the author can be held responsible for any consequences of following this advice.

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