Hi, I’m Luke. I am the Chief Medical Officer at Eolas Medical. That might sound like a very fancy title but any of you who have worked in a tech startup before will know that titles often don’t mean much! Order of the day is often wearing many different hats and working on a range of different tasks within the business.
My own journey into healthcare began while studying Physiotherapy at UCD Dublin, graduating in 2008. That degree, and working on the wards and in primary care, lit the flame which culminated in my returning to University for a medical degree from Queen's University Belfast.
After finishing Foundation Training and having worked in Emergency Medicine for a few years I was thinking strongly about applying for EM training and completing some of the exams along the way. Around this time, I began to notice how the working conditions had undoubtedly deteriorated while the demands of the job seemed to be ever-increasing. Even over my own short career, I had noticed a considerable change - the ambulances lined up outside the ED as there is just no space in the department to offload a patient, the long trolley waits or staffing shortages. None of these was the fault of the individual department but was symptoms of a wider systems failure. The question for me did I want to go down a certain path and probably not want the job that was at the end of it?
Is there a world outside of Medicine?
I began to develop a curiosity for employment and opportunities outside of the clinical medical sphere.
Were there other opportunities for doctors out there?
Would any of the skills I had learned in my career to date be transferable?
Would I regret it if I left clinical medicine?
As it turns out the answers to the above are,
Yes definitely some, but there is lots of scope to work less than full time to keep the clinical skills up to date.
Around this time, my good friend and colleague from Craigavon Area Hospital ED, Declan Kelly, developed an app which had been implemented by our department. The app was born out of frustration of having poor access to medical guidelines in the department and the app was solving that issue quite well.
As demand grew from other departments in our region for a similar app for their own teams, Eolas Medical was born. This all coincided with my lukewarm feelings toward a lifelong career solely in medicine and it was at this time that I took the daunting step to leave clinical medicine and came on board at Eolas Medical.
This wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly. At the time, I did consider that I was taking a reasonable risk by leaving a stable clinical job. However, I now believe that it wasn’t actually that risky, and that is putting Eolas’ good growth to one side. I genuinely believe that medical, nursing and AHP staff are highly coveted in a number of industries and would have options available to them if they did wish to change their career trajectory.
What have I learned?
I’m now 18 months into my new role and what have I learned?
Getting a medical degree and working as a junior doctor is a lot of hard work in comparison to many other degrees and graduate roles. If you have a work ethic and commitment to be reasonably proficient at it then it’s reasonable to think that you can succeed in another industry too.
There are a wide variety of employment opportunities out there for those who want to explore employment opportunities outside of clinical medicine. The first steps are being active, seeing for yourself what is out there and networking. I think that as medics, we can sometimes become blinkered to the possible opportunities that exist outside of medicine.
Similar to the medical world, the tech startup environment is not all rainbows and unicorns. Glad to say I have been lucky to meet a number of really hard-working, inspirational individuals and also the opposite.
I actually really still enjoy practising medicine and seeing patients but it’s the conditions that are the most frustrating when I do work a clinical shift.
Hospitals (and especially the ED!) are very social places to work and I do miss the daily interactions with patients and with staff.
Personal and family life is definitely easier to manage when not trying to navigate a rota with antisocial hours, nights and weekends (multiplied x2 if your other half is also a medic).
There are undoubtedly a large number of doctors who do have thoughts of leaving the profession. I have met and interacted with many through my role at Eolas and have also had a number of old colleagues get in contact to chat about it. Guilt seems to be one of the main limiting factors preventing doctors from leaving their current roles. This guilt can be towards the profession itself, at parents who may have made sacrifices to fund their child’s University degree or at the individual themselves for wanting to leave a profession that they have invested so much time and effort into.
Plans for the Future
As Eolas continues to grow (we’re now a team of 13) I want to continue to learn new skills which will be useful in multiple aspects of the company. There are so many resources available through a plethora of media which makes this possible.
I intend to keep up the clinical work too. As well as actually enjoying the experience it is also beneficial to my role at Eolas, as our niche sits at the intersection of front-line clinical care and technology.
One of the niceties of working with a completely remote company is the ability to travel and work. This also weds very well with one of my major passions which is playing music, which also often involves an element of travel. I feel very fortunate to be able to combine the two, on occasion.