A hefty chunk of time has passed since well-intentioned resolutions were made to document my first year at medical school – now a little experience has been gained I have a few stories to tell, reflecting upon the first 18 months of my time studying medicine.
Watch this space!
Even with my limited and rudimentary knowledge of medicine, I have some pretty strong opinions on certain ethical and sociopolitical themes. The role and future of the NHS, for example, as well as abortion, assisted suicide, equality, even the treatment of obesity, drug and alcohol dependence and smoking-related diseases, not to mention my political preferences.
I’d like to think I have reasoned and balanced arguments to support my views but I don’t know what limits professionalism set on my expression of those views, which is why I don’t feel comfortable even to commit them anonymously to this blog. Does anonymity permit freer speech? As a practising clinician, do one’s own views become irrelevant? If a clinician’s views, say religiously, contravened a patient’s wishes for abortion, should they be able to ask a colleague to perform the procedure in their stead? And how far would this extend. To prescribing contraception? What if nobody else was available? Should they deny a patient’s wishes based on the clinician’s own beliefs.
I’m sure there are guidelines, policies and procedures surrounding this and related issues but from a purely ethical perspective, it fascinates me.
I’m wary on my personal social media sites of avoiding controversy, swearing and alluding to political or ethical values for fear of seeming ‘unprofessional’. I feel I must become a neutral entity, a monkey dancing at the whim of the patient audience.
Ah, yes. That most dreaded of inevitable interview questions.
All of the med school interviews I had included it and I gave different answers each time, with varying degrees of success. There is an argument that this question is only asked to relax you and get you speaking because the panel expect you’ve thought about it and, to some extent, prepared an answer. I know the guy sitting next to me before an interview, sweating nervously and frantically trying to memorise his typed answers had. But I hadn’t.
I’m not bothered if it’s a question that the interviewers are genuinely listening to or whether they use it as time to zone out and start their paperwork whilst you stumble over your words, but I think it’s awful. Who, as a naive, inexperienced teenager, can give a coherent answer without endless clichés, sounding sickening or spouting the compulsory ‘I just want to help people’?
In truth, I was alerted to the possibility of pursuing a career in medicine by TV medical dramas (E.R. and House chief among them). However, I’d have to be a fair few drinks on the way to being trolleyed to rock up to an interview and confess to watching the number of episodes of those programmes that I have. (It’s all of them, if you’re wondering). I don’t think I’d want my doctor to have that kind of capacity for audiovisual consumption. I want to know mine were reciting rare genetic diseases from their cot before they stick that gloved hand wherever it’s going.
But isn’t honesty one of the core values we expect from a medic? Should I have said, ‘I want to be a doctor because Hugh Laurie’s really cracking in his role and Dr Greene sets the tone’? Whilst honesty is important, there is a point at which you should just stop sharing quite so much about, for example, how much you enjoy picking your nose and to be blunt, should shut up.
At interview I was asked on more than one occasion whether I had medics in my family. I replied truthfully that I don’t, because I didn’t want to lie but I didn’t feel entirely comfortable answering the question. I didn’t want that to affect my chances any more than it would if I did; level playing field and all that. So honesty: yes, good, wonderful. To an extent.
And to the original question. Why do I want to study medicine?
Not a bloody clue.
Welcome to my blog!
This September, I’ll be off to uni to study medicine and I thought it might be fun and useful to keep a little record of what’s going on. When I was deciding on what I wanted to do, I found that there wasn’t enough info about what it’s really like being a med student and I hope that this blog will give a bit of insight into life at medical school.
I’ll try and write a bit about lots of different aspects of student life, whether it’s the day-to-day goings on or my musings about medicine, ethics and society and I hope they’ll be informative and/or useful and/or (ideally) a teensy bit entertaining.
There area few months to go until I actually start, so there’ll be some preamble for you to endure or enjoy as the mood takes you.
So, let’s get this show on the road!