Why Have I Waited 5 Years?

It’s been five years since my last (and, embarrassingly, only) post on this blog. I started it when I’d just been awarded my PhD. After four years of focusing on my research and thesis, I thought that I would have the mental space and time to really invest in something that I’m personally passionate about – science communication.

Viva Day

I think when many of us finish a big project, like a PhD, there’s almost a grieving feeling at the end. What do I do now? This thing that has been a massive part of your every waking (and in my case also so sleeping) moment is now done. It makes sense to rest, recuperate and reflect. This is what I should have done. Sadly, as those of you who know me can attest, I’m not very good at any of those things. It’s a a skill set I’m working to develop.

So, instead of stopping, I decided to sit the exams to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath). This was a big deal for me. Not that many Healthcare Scientists in microbiology at the time has sat the Medical Microbiology exam, and no one who only worked in paediatrics. It was important to me though, as I see patients and felt the need to be as equally qualified as my medical colleagues. It was the final step to getting on the Higher Specialist Scientific register and being eligible for a Consultant Healthcare Scientist post.

Healthcare Scientist Progression Routes

I started to prepare for the ‘Great British Bake Off’ of professional exams but without the comfort of cake. Four days, 30 hours of exams with lab and written sections! If I thought the PhD was tricky, FRCPath was another level.

Five years ago I posted on Facebook:

Elaine Cloutman-Green is feeling drained.

30 September 2015  · Shared with Your friends


Day 3. It’s 6 am and I’m reading brain abscess guidelines. I’m exhausted, I feel sick, and I really want to go home. It’s been so much harder than I had dreamed and I have cocked up on so many things. I get to leave tomorrow and that is all I care about now, I no longer care if I pass – I just want it to stop. Whining over. Eyes on the finish line. When I leave here, let’s never mention these days again.

Sometimes you have to face the failure and the difficulties head on to come out stronger. Fortunately I came through the other side and was gobsmacked in 2015 to find out that I had passed.

The Face of Complete Relief at the Fellowship Ceremony (2016)

2016 you say, but that’s still years ago . So why nothing since then?

At the same time as recovering from FRCPath exams, I decided to apply for an NIHR Clinical Lectureship. I know! I’ve got a problem, right?

From 2016 to 2019, I’ve been beavering away on my clinical academic career as part of an NIHR ICA Fellowship (see the top right corner of the progression image). More on that and what a Clinical Academic is will be posted on a separate blog in a bit.

After an intense five years with a lot of highs, and some level of stress, I’m back! I promise to not make you wait five years for another post.

What have I learnt:

  • Learn to rest, regenerate and reflect. These skills are undervalued.
  • Sometimes you have to face your fears in order to thrive. In my case the fear of failure.
  • You are capable of anything you can dream of if you work hard enough. Dream big and aim high!

All opinions in this blog are my own

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