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It all started with a nervous smile. The camera shutter immortalised a moment which would be used to identify me throughout my 6 years of medical school. I vividly remember having joined the excited line of new medical students waiting to have their photograph taken. Now as I look back at that photo, I wonder if that fresh-faced medical student in 2008 really had any idea of the future that was in store for her and her new profession.
I’m sure we’ve all heard colleagues commenting that they might make a different decision about their career if they could have seen what their lives would be like now. As a Foundation Year 2 doctor, many of my colleagues are about to take a year out from the training treadmill and re-evaluate their plans and priorities. What would life be like if we hadn’t pursued medicine? I sometimes ponder this - especially in light of a current persistent heavy-heartedness around the junior contract and real concerns about the future of the NHS.
As a child, I enjoyed caring for others, and I loved science. I have many fond childhood memories of spending time with a loved one in hospital, but as I grew into my early teenage years I had a strong aversion to hospitals (who would ever have believed I’d end up choosing to work in one?). My secondary school didn’t encourage high aspirations, but my parents always supported and encouraged me. When I picked my A-levels, I thought I might want to be a history teacher. I didn’t know anyone in the medical profession, and I had not considered medicine. Things changed when I went to college, though. We all have different stories about how we ended up in medicine, but mine was largely influenced by this one teacher. My wonderful Biology teacher, Rob, had a link with the local medical school, and somehow I ended up taking part in a course linking the two. I grew to admire the medical school and decided to apply, which was a whole journey in itself!
In abstract, medicine has it all - a mix of knowledge, technical competencies and communication skills – all combined with the unifying purpose of improving a patient’s health or function. We share some of the most personal moments with people – we’re there from the very first breath of a newborn, and there to comfort patients as they take their final breath. However, there are aspects of medicine I had little insight about which I would later learn would impact my ability to deliver the best care I can for my patients: political game-playing, bureaucracy and under-filled rotas. I underestimated the impact on life outside of work: seemingly endless work to do when home, significant costs of training, and the heartache of missing time with my friends and family.
Along the way I’ve met some wonderful role models and heroes. I learned that many doctors go above and beyond the call of duty to compensate for an overstretched system.
If I could go back to that fresh-faced medical student in 2008, I would give her some advice, warnings and tips, I would tell her that she was about to embark on a challenging but privileged adventure, and I would tell her that I’d do it all over again.
A lovely article, but I wonder if this a view shared by many or a few. Regret seems to have seeped into the final years of medical school amongst my cohort, who now think they should have chosen differently - the concequences this will have on the NHS will play out over the next few years. I hope the NHS can make it through.
I wouldn't do it again. Too much sacrifice for very modest gains.
I'm hating it at the moment, very little reward.