10 Reasons why NOT to start a clinical academic journey

“In coming to the end of my internship I have produced some suggestions as to why one might not want to enter the clinical academic world.” By Jemma Bell

1) Some of your clinical colleagues will think that you are getting involved with research because you don’t care about or aren’t good at ‘frontline’ clinical practice.

2) In the academic setting you won’t know anyone’s professional background because nobody wears a uniform. Also, you won’t know their level of authority as, weirdly, no one really introduces themselves by their associated profession or NHS Agenda for Change banding.

3) You’ll feel like a complete idiot in the academic setting because you don’t yet understand academic culture, language or rules. Meaning, when you listen, read and write you feel like you’re learning a new language. Then when you start to feel accomplished you get surprise challenges you hadn’t considered. For example after deciding who could be your mentor, you realise you don’t know how to actually ask someone to be your mentor. It feels like I am asking someone to adopt me.

4) Your core professional skills such as writing appear to read like nursery scribbles compared to others. On top of that, these skills seem much harder to learn because there doesn’t seem to be a competency pack.

5) You’ll start to challenge your knowledge about your own clinical practice – even profession – and think, does it even work? Now all your unconscious assumptions suddenly light up like a Christmas Tree and you feel totally incompetent in both clinical and academic settings.

6) You’ll maybe even start to question your personal values and aspirations. What do I care about the most and why? Where am I best placed to help tackle issues I care about the most? Or my most replayed question… Seriously, what am I actually doing!?

7) Worse. Recognising that there are a lot of opportunities out there you may start to feel a paradigm shift. From waiting for breaks to actually coming up with things, and then feeling accountable for creating these opportunities.

8) You’ll worry about ‘getting left behind’ in your clinical reasoning and skill development. Other clinicians you respect may reinforce this worry.

9) Your family and friends will comment – “so what do you actually do now?”. You speak to distant friends you qualified with and when they ask you what you are doing … maybe before they have even listened to the answer they say “that’s good – but not for me” (I never asked whether it was for you or not).

10) You’ll start having to give stuff a try that you never considered before… like writing for a blog.

2 thoughts on “10 Reasons why NOT to start a clinical academic journey

  1. This is just a brilliant post. Thank you Jemma. What delights and amazes me is how this stuff just seems to be so strong to me even now, many years after getting into research. Every single point still rings true (although now I laugh and delight in them rather than fret about them 😄 So I suppose that is progress). Thank you for sharing this.


  2. Pingback: What am I, and what should I do? | Clinician Academic

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