As the retirement age seems to be pushed further and further, Australians are left facing incredibly long careers. This extended working life brings about a few questions. How will our bodies cope as we age? Will we be able to remain as sharp and productive as we were in the beginning? And, maybe most importantly, how will we stay happy and excited about a career that spans many decades?

As health care providers, where bad days can actually mean loss of life, grief and incredibly difficult learning opportunities, how do we ensure that the passion we held as med students carries on well into our career until retirement?

Remember that you are never stuck

While a career lasts a lifetime, that does not mean you have to spend day in, day out doing exactly the same thing. The beauty of medicine is that there are so many pathways to choose while still utilising all the skills you have picked up along the way. Emergency medicine a bit too chaotic? Try gaining skills and specialising in a new area. Passions can change, even if your love for medicine doesn’t, it may just mean expanding your horizons and looking at new pathways to embark on.

You have time

Any health care professional will know how fast paced and frantic a workday can become in medicine. With a whole career ahead of you, realise that you don’t have to accomplish and learn everything straight away. Don’t burn yourself out and come to resent a career path you would have loved had you taken care of yourself.

Strive to learn new things, always

No matter what stage of your career you are in, first day to a few years before retirement, a great way to remain excited and passionate is to continue learning throughout. Medicine is incredibly exciting as there are unbelievable advancements happening all the time. Procedures are changing, technology is evolving and the way we are learning is developing in a way we didn’t think possible. Learning new things will keep you engaged, but it will also help you be the best you can be in terms of helping patients.

Dare to step away from the routine

It can be all too easy to remain in that position we established in our twenties and thirties and have that quickly turn into a rut. It is in this run that passion and happiness goes to die and will convince you that feeling comfortable is best. Dare to escape your comfort zone and push boundaries. Forget about the same old and try something new. Even if it doesn’t work out and you have to go down another pathway, you are setting yourself up for an exciting career in medicine.

Celebrate all those successes, including the “little” ones

We can get so caught up in the day to day and busy schedules that we forget to stop and give ourselves a pat on the back for the amazing efforts we are doing. However, as soon as a mistake is made it can be hard to let it go. We all need to celebrate our successes, even those smaller ones that may be common occurrence. Give yourself the credit you deserve and spoil yourself every now and then.

Remember, it’s not all about work

It may seem ironic, but a part of remaining passionate about your career is having time away from it. Life is not all about work, and doing all we can to achieve a comfortable work life balance is going to help us stay in love with our jobs in the long run. Work less overtime when you can, get away from the workplace and go for a hike, spend a day with your loved ones without being on call. Whenever you can afford to, completely separate yourself from work and do something for you.

Lastly, choose to see the opportunity

A long career in medicine is only as fulfilling as you make it. It can be filled with many options, lessons and great experiences if you let it; it’s about identifying and seizing opportunities and seeing where they take you.