Choose Psychiatry 2022: Taking a break from training, and returning
31 October, 2022
Dr Raka Maitra is an ST6 in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. In this interview, she talks about why she loves psychiatry, why a career break can be useful, and – as someone who took a career break herself - why she passionately believes it can be beneficial to return to training.
What does your work involve?
In my day-to-day work I help children and adolescents and their families navigate through mental health difficulties.
Sometimes these mental health difficulties are things like anxiety or depression arising from difficult experiences like bullying.
Sometimes they are complex trauma resulting from really horrible experiences in life, like abuse.
Sometimes these are physical illnesses, which have had an effect on the mind.
So these are the different kind of things that I do in my day-to-day life, and also we work really closely with other mental health professionals, like psychologists, psychotherapists, sometimes occupational therapists, social workers, other team members and also we work very closely with schools.
Why would you recommend psychiatry as a career?
Psychiatry is a great career.
It allows us to truly address the human condition, to look at our human suffering.
We all try to make sense of the world, and to navigate through difficult times when we can't make sense of the world.
Working in psychiatry gives an immense sense of satisfaction in truly being able to help another human being to do this.
Why did you choose psychiatry?
I've always been in love with psychiatry, and that's because I've always been in love with trying to understand how the mind works, and it has taken me on different journeys.
So one is psychiatry, but I've also been interested in neuroscience, in research and I’m also trying to learn psychotherapy now.
These are all very various different ways of trying to understand the mind and trying to understand how the mind understands the world.
So I think it's a fascinating branch of medicine, and it really puts you in a place where you can be a doctor, but also not limit yourself just to the medical model of understanding how the body functions.
So I've always been really fascinated with psychiatry and would encourage everyone to at least try taking a module or getting some experience, whatever they're doing in their medical career.
Why is it important to return to psychiatric training after a break?
So that's a great question.
Firstly, taking a break itself is really important. Because at the end of the day, it's only when we can take care of ourselves that we can truly take care of others.
And sometimes, to be able to take care of ourselves and people close to us, life throws things at you, and sometimes you may have to take a career break and that is OK, because we actually don't lose many of our medical skills by being on a career break.
So the first message that I would like to give people is, do not be afraid if life has put you in a situation where a career break is necessary.
And once you've had that career break, there are many resources to arm yourself again to come back to work and this could take many forms.
Training certainly is one of them. I chose to come back to training because you then gain, not only a structured way of becoming familiar with something you love - I've always loved psychiatry - but also you gain a network of peers, you make new friendships and you also gain a network of consultants who can now guide you towards reshaping your career.
So I think it is a really nurturing way of coming back and picking up your career from where you had left.
If you've been on a career break - maybe you have taken a career break to do more research, or you might have taken a career break just to travel and experience life, or you might have taken a career break because life happened, you became ill or someone you know became ill – there are many possibilities.
All of these things enrich your life and enrich your understanding of life, widen your horizons, and it is always something to be proud of.
So when you come back after a career break, you are perhaps a more well-rounded clinician, because you are a much more well-rounded human being who's had extra life experiences.
So never be apologetic for any of your career breaks, and it's always possible to come back because there's always work to do.