Medicine is a wonderful and challenging career. It offers a major intellectual challenge, and confronts important moral and ethical issues. Deciding to read medicine is volunteering to join a tribe with its own set of values and behaviours. Much teamwork is involved. To a positive note, it offers mobile qualification and is secure and well paid. Being a doctor asks meeting qualities and qualifications needed for this profession. The degree of someone’s commitment to medicine is so important, not only for achieving a place at medical school but also for determining whether or not someone will enjoy this career afterwards, that he/she needs to think very carefully about whether or not he or she really wants to study it at all.
The kind of patients today’s doctors face are so demanding and unable to listen the advices given to them for one or more reasons. “Every day doctors have to deal with people who are worn out and unable to stand up to the life they lead. They generally assert that it is impossible to alter the way they live, and sincerely believe that their overwork is the product of circumstance, whereas it is bound up with their own intimate problems. It is ambition, fear of the future, love of money, jealousy, or social injustice that makes men strive and overwork, invent all sorts of unnecessary tasks, keep late hours, take too little sleep, take insufficient holidays, or use their holidays badly. Their minds are overtense, so that at night they cannot sleep and by day they doubly fatigue themselves at their work”, Paul Tournier, M.D. Doctors are responsible for the diagnosis, care and treatment of illnesses, infections, diseases and the well-being of people.
As is written in the NHS article on Careers for Doctors, “Medical doctors may work in a variety of settings such as in hospital or as a family doctor. Contemporary medicine is both challenging and exciting, with new discoveries making their impact on medical practice, doctors now qualifying will see even more dramatic changes in the future, with the developments of many new techniques, involving not only drugs, but methods arising from research in genetics, electronics, nuclear physics and molecular biology.”
Medicine is stressful and demanding. In terms of having a proper social life, other areas of study are bound to be better paid, and the hours are not too bad – normal 9 to 5 jobs. Some consider becoming a doctor as living a life of death, depression and sleep deprivation as it holds hidden world of life and death and everything in between. The funny comment from Pemberton’s Trust Me, I’m a junior doctor – which is ‘a real eye opener to the world of medicine’, regarding the frustrating and over-consuming life of a junior doctor can be seen from the statement: “Saturdays are horrid places in hospitals. You give up your weekend so that everyone else can go out and enjoy themselves and arrive in A&E to get stitched up when it spirals out of control.” This columnist in The Daily Telegraph vividly puts the difference between prospective medical students view about being inside the medical world and what being a junior doctor after graduation would look like, “Medicine is supposed to be upbeat: its aim to save, improve, extend life. This is what medical school focuses on and it’s why I became a doctor. I’ve been taught about the weirdest and most obscure medical conditions that affect only a handful of people, but death, that most universal of problems? Not a thing. In fact, I’m not even sure how to tell if someone actually is dead (it’s harder than you’d think).”
The most important general quality of a doctor should have is a liking for and an interest in people, even the difficult ones. You really need to enjoy interacting and sympathising with all ranks, shapes, cultures, classes and religions, even those who try to insult and humiliate you. Harvey White’s complied book on ‘Do you have what it takes?’ lucidly explains what the medical profession expect from interest groups who see themselves in the medical world, “Modern medicine involves the exciting application of scientific principles to help people by counteracting the cruel hereditary environmental, social and random determinants of disease,. Thus you must not only have a genuine interest in human physiology, in how muscles contract, how smoking causes lung cancer and how high blood pressure causes kidney problems, but also in why American Indians intolerant to alcohol and why low-income groups have an increase burden of disease, and why this affects not not only themselves but sadly even their unborn children.”
Another increasingly important quality is the ability to work in a team. Medicine today depends on teamwork, and though the head of the team is usually a doctor, that is by no means always the case. So you must be sure that the drawbacks of medicine do not outweigh its advantages for you. How strongly you judge the arguments in favour of a career in medicine depends on you and your character. To make up your mind, you must obtain as much information as you can about what medicine entails as a career by shadowing doctors, attending clinics or helping in hospitals. If you can make a point of talking to junior doctors, as they see medicine at its toughest, it would also be equally invaluable in giving a proper insight into this demanding profession.
What medical schools will be looking for in candidates
The standards of entry for any medical teaching centre are exacting. Applicants called for interview will face searching questions about their motivation, their work at school, hobbies and personal interests, as well as having to produce evidence of their academic achievements. A key question will be their reasons for wanting to become a doctor. Candidates should also be able to demonstrate relevant paid or voluntary work experience e.g. work as a hospital auxiliary, in nursing or residential care. You can also find more about what it is like to be a doctor by having a formal period of work observation.
Professor John Stein, on approach to work involving medicine, rounds up the pros and cons of studying medicine in such a pleasant manner as: “If you find it appealing to be able to help people at their most vulnerable, to make a real difference to their lives and eventually to become your own master when making life or death decisions, you will find medicine infinitely rewarding and fulfilling, and well worth the sacrifice of time and effort. You will gain gratitude, respect, status and trust from your patients and peers. Also, you will seldom be unemployed and your salary will be reasonably good and reliable. If you feel you may resent the time and effort that will have to be spent, and the way in which medicine can dominate your life, do not do medicine!”
Honor a physician with the honor due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him: for the Lord hath created him.
– Ecclesiasticus 38:1