It was a weird feeling arriving for work on the 17th of February, for the first time in twenty years - I had a job that wasn’t being a doctor.
Two years earlier, another psychiatrist and I had set up Virtually Free - we wanted to make fun easily accessible apps for mental health conditions using games to deliver the psychological therapy. We teamed up with Rich, a games developer, and after significant time and money had two apps out.
Up until February, we had done this in our spare time but after being offered a place on Telefonica/O2’s tech accelerator programme, Wayra, we had to make a decision, step out of medicine, potentially forever or accept our project would always be a side-line. I think it’s fair to say my wife thought I was going through a mid-life crisis and as my five year old sagely pointed out ‘it doesn’t earn any money so what’s the point!’
It was very strange arriving at Wayra’s office, we have our own little ‘pod’ and share the space with fourteen other technology start-ups doing everything from streaming concerts to big data analysis of genetics. Suddenly you’re not in your comfort zone of clinical work, you’re not doing something you have years of experience in and that is a bit frightening. On the up side you rediscover a whole world outside of medicine, realise your skills are transferable and discover you can do other things apart from clinical medicine. For me doing something creative feels like a real change and being in charge but also responsible for everything refreshing.
I suspect a lot of doctors find doing solely clinical work becomes unfulfilling after a while and the traditional avenues of research, teaching and service development aren’t for everyone. One of the problems with a busy clinical job is that we become institutionalised. It gets harder to believe there is anything else we can do. In reality our skills as psychiatrists are probably the most transferable of all medics. We understand risk and uncertainty, team dynamics, human behaviour and we are used to making difficult decisions with limited information. All of these have a broad application.
So currently Monday and Tuesday I am a consultant psychiatrist and the rest of the week I wear jeans and a t-shirt and pretend to be one of the cool kids in the tech start-up world. Everyone is different but there is a broader range of options than people imagine.
-Dr Russell Green, Consultant Psychiatrist... you can call me Russ.