Dr. Yumiko Kadota explains how she quit her dream job as a plastic surgery registrar and her career of more than ten years due to the ‘toxic’ work culture.
The ambitious doctor had a six-figure job and coached a group of doctors and interns before she decided to leave the industry in 2018. Dr. Kadota, who first entered into an operating theatre in 2007, explains how mentally and physically exhausted she was, working 20- hours a day without breaks or sleep.
She studied medicine and surgery for eight years and documented her journey in a blog post called “The ugly side of becoming a surgeon.”, Dr. Kadota revealed the transition of her career which went from ‘bright-eyed and bushy-tailed beginnings’ to ‘the worst working days of my life.’
Although she speaks of her career trajectory as a ‘demise,’ Dr. Kadota doesn’t want to be the one discouraging others from entering the industry. She’s only doing this to inform people of the ‘toxic surgical environment’ in Australia.
Because she was hailed as the best surgical intern in the hospital, Dr. Kadota says she would often be the first one to arrive and the last to go.
I stayed back after hours to assist surgeries – not because I had to, but because I wanted to spend more time in the operating theatre.
She was praised by everyone for her good work, something she used to love so much at the beginning.
It was after six years into her career when she discovered the ‘dark side of surgery.’
A senior neurosurgeon, which eventually got fired, would constantly tease her saying she was on a ‘downward spiral’ and even went as far as to say to her to take off her clothes, in Japanese. She added that misogyny followed her through the whole career, as well as in the hospital where she started working in 2018.
There was no Monday-to-Friday schedule there. She worked up to 20 hours a day and slept in the ‘recovery’ room for a few hours before her next shift started.
I was at the hospital for 120-140 hours a fortnight, and work would follow me home with phone calls whilst trying to park my car in the garage, whilst I took a shower, whilst I was trying to cook dinner, and whilst I was trying to fall asleep.
She explained how she always had to be on standby, which prevented her from having a social life
Within the first month working at the hospital, she had more than 100 hours overtime work. She was not feeling well, suffered from dehydration, poor nutrition, and sleep deprivation. Every day she would wake up hoping the next day will be better.
One time an operation had gone long into the night and she called her boss but he never answered. He even jokingly said whether she had really called him or she was just dreaming.
She faced her breaking point one night when she received a 3 am call and was ordered to ‘stop being an emotional female.’
Dr. Kabota resigned last year on June 1, even knowing that it wouldn’t be easy getting another job in a Sydney plastic surgery. But she also knew that she’d had enough.
“I was physically alive, but spiritually broken,” she wrote. The head of the department asked if she could ‘hold on’ for a few more months, but she couldn’t continue working like that, and the only response she got was:
It’s a shame. You have good hands. You’re good at what you do… but if you can’t handle the hours, maybe this isn’t for you.
Dr. Kadota shared her story hoping this would bring changes in the medical culture, and that there will be a work-life balance for the doctors and everyone working in medicine.