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Sruthi Sarma is a 5th year medical student at Cardiff University School of Medicine
My journey through medical school has almost come to an end. It has been a long (and at times gruelling) five years, but I’m glad to be at this stage in my career and life. Looking back, I wish I had a better insight into what I signed myself up to. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give you a few hints and tips that will help you along the way, giving you a better idea of what to expect.
Coming from a family background where medicine is not as entrenched as some of my peers, I had very little knowledge of healthcare and what to expect. On top of this, I was not your average teen who would watch ‘House’ or ‘Grey’s anatomy’, adding to my cluelessness. I knew it would be hard work and I tried my absolute best to mentally prepare myself prior to starting university. Yet nothing could have prepared me for the sheer volume of information that was being thrown my way during lectures.
I was trying to get used to moving away from home, becoming independent, as well as trying to keep in touch with events at university. The first few months are tough, and it’s definitely not for the faint hearted. Apply to medicine if YOU want to become a doctor. You are in it for the long haul. You need to do it for yourself; not for your parents or for your teachers. You need to do it because you see yourself five years into the future when you're expected to deal with a peri-arrest crash call (this is when an emergency situation where you suspect a patient is about to go into cardiac arrest). More importantly, if you have a genuine passion for wanting to help others, you will 100% make it through to the end and it honestly is worth it.
When choosing a medical school, it is important to remember that most universities vary in their style of learning. You have more traditional courses (e.g. Oxbridge and London unis) that are lecture based for two years and then followed by three years of clinical training, which is where you get practical experience. There are more modern courses that involve problem and case-based learning in which students have less contact time and guidance in comparison to traditional courses, but have more exposure to clinical environments from an earlier stage at university. Everyone learns differently; take careful consideration into what the teaching style is and what will be best suited for you.
One way to see if medicine is the career for you is to organise work experience. I found myself in a rather sticky situation where I did not have an Uncle Joe whose clinic I could observe or an Aunty Jane whose GP surgery I could visit. I had left arranging work experience quite late as I only decided to apply to medicine in lower 6th. I was told from many different hospitals that there was aone or two year waiting list for students seeking experience. So if you have a vague idea that you want to go into healthcare, I would recommend sorting out work experience well in advance, especially if you do not have a relative working in healthcare to help you organise this. It is also good practice to get things organised at an earlier date, which is definitely a good skill to have!
However, do not be disheartened if you are unable to organise this. Medical schools know that it is very hard to arrange, and therefore it is not compulsory. As long as you show a keen interest in another way (e.g. volunteering in your local nursing home, homeless shelter or anything else you're passionate about and proactive in engagement), medical schools will love this as a talking point at interview. Reading around current hot topics on healthcare in the media is also very useful. This is normally a good way in initiating a conversation at interview, and showing that you have broader general knowledge.
In conclusion, if you are truly passionate about studying medicine, all your hard work will prove fruitful. Perseverance is key as well as resilience, and you are most certainly not disadvantaged if you have no medical points of contact! Good luck to you all!
Sruthi’s blog forms part of BMA Cymru Wales’s widening access project, demystifying the myths around medicine. Find out more at www.bma.org.uk/becomingadoctor