Reacting to setbacks

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Dr Chelcie Jewitt, clinical fellow at Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and past RCP Student and Foundation Doctor Network representative, reflects on how the disappointment of not being allocated her preferred deanery drove her to succeed in new ways.

Throughout our medical degree, we are told time and time again ‘it’ll all be worth it in the end’. For 5 whole years I kept that phrase in mind, looking forward to the day when I would start on the wards. Initially I planned to move closer to home, down south or London somewhere, but then life took over and I fell in love with the city of my student years (and subsequently a non-medical Scouser), meaning Liverpool was the only city for me. 

For those 5 years I put in the hard work, I obtained my degree and was ranked in an above-average decile. I took the situational judgement test (SJT), the same routine we all go through. Ticking the boxes, jumping through the hoops before I got that job I wanted. That’s what we all thought. The only people who have to worry about not getting the deanery they want are those applying to London, right?

Wrong. Deanery allocation day came. All my friends got Mersey. I didn’t. 

Now, I did get my second choice (north-west) and I’m aware that at this point some people didn’t get allocated any job at all. It could have been worse. I know that. Sensible me knows that. But in that initial moment my future seemed bleak and hopeless. 

My parents were going to be ashamed of me; I’d let them down by not succeeding. I was going to have to move out of my city centre flat, leaving my boyfriend behind. My friends aren’t going to want to visit me, I’m going to be so lonely.

Failure is a part of life. How we react to those failures is what defines us.

Dr Chelcie Jewitt, Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

From that snapshot into my psyche, you can see that I may have overreacted a little. Though perhaps a little extreme on my part, I hope that an aspect of that has struck a chord with those who have experienced something similar, whether that be SJT-related turmoil, not getting into medical school straight from A-levels (also like me) or something completely unrelated to medicine. Failure is a part of life. How we react to those failures is what defines us. 

So, following my initial meltdown I picked myself up, brushed myself off and got to planning. How could I ensure that something like this never happened to me ever again? I looked at what parts of my CV needed improving. At that point I had a lot of teaching experience, but no poster presentations, no publications, a couple of audits but nothing to shout about. I could be better. My CV will be better by the time I apply for the next step in training. 

Fast forward to today, I’m in my second-year post-foundation training and many of my university peers are getting their specialist registrar (SpR) applications ready. I, on the other hand, am not. These past 2 years have been a bit of a whirlwind! I've achieved so much in a relatively short space of time – professionally, academically and personally. 

Since my nightmare with the SJT, I’ve successfully completed foundation training, worked as a clinical fellow in A&E for 6 months, travelled central America, started learning Spanish and passed MRCP Part 1 & 2.

Dr Chelcie Jewitt, Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Since my nightmare with the SJT, I’ve successfully completed foundation training, worked as a clinical fellow in A&E for 6 months, travelled central America, started learning Spanish and passed MRCP Part 1 & 2 and FRCEM primary (fellowship examination for the Royal College of Emergency Medicine). This is on top of strengthening my CV with research projects, audits and quality improvement projects.

This year I am undertaking a 12-month post in critical care, whilst continuing my Spanish lessons and starting a part-time MSc with the University of Exeter. On top of all of that I’m planning my wedding and honeymoon. 

I love being a doctor. I have no doubt about going into training and eventually getting to consultancy. I'm just not in any rush. This all started with what happened with my SJT and that has pointed my life in the direction it’s gone and I don’t regret that at all.

For those who experience something like this please remember: 

  • Failure is a part of life. How we react to those failures is what defines us. Make the most of your new opportunity.
  • Be kind to yourself. If things don't go the way you thought you wanted them to, there’s no point in beating yourself up about that. Some things are out of your control. I honestly believe that this was one of the best things to happen to me, although that is only clear in hindsight.
  • Reflect on this experience. What have you learnt about yourself? What can you do in the future to avoid a similar situation, or to deal with a similar situation better?

Dr Chelcie Jewitt, clinical fellow at Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust