One of the few perks of being a medical student is that you don’t have to face the real world for a very very long time. Most of my friends are looking for jobs, trying to earn money, and make themselves functioning units of society, while the biggest worry I have right now is whether I can get home in time to binge watch Stranger Things. Medical students spend 5 to 6 years studying medicine in the UK, longer than any other course out there. This is due to several reasons. Doctors are given the strange task of taking care of another human being. This will involve:
- Putting chemicals into your body that will kill you if given too many drops of;
- Cutting you open, cutting bits off, and putting you back together again with string and glue and staplers;
- Telling you the give up the most fun things in life such as smoking, alcohol, and eating beetroot juice.
Given the enormous responsibility of saving a life, and having to toe the line between hero and murderer on a daily basis, it is no wonder it takes a while to turn a naive pimply medical student into a confident, knife-wielding, needle-sharpening doctor. The medical course is also designed to be long and arduous to weed out all those who don’t have the time, energy or stupidity to devote their entire lives to low pay, poor work life balance and imprisonment in hospital wards. If you don’t want to throw away 5 years of life for a medical degree, why would you throw away the rest of your life to be a doctor?
Surviving the hell of medical school is very simple. You must disregard any preconceived notions about the greatness that is you. You may be the best collection of neurons to ever make its way through your high school, but in medical school you may be nothing more than sticky chewing gum that greater intellectuals will step on on their way to success. You may think you are plenty prepared for medicine because you’ve scored full marks in Biology and did your school proud by winning Olympiad. I hate to tell you this, but every one here is a nerd, and some of us collect Olympiad winnings like its pocket lint.
And finally, a note about working hard. I’m sure you think you work hard. You’re probably thinking about those very late nights where you stayed up to 12 and was worried that you won’t get your seven hours of sleep for the next day. That’s very cute. Welcome to a world where sleep is a scarcer commodity that plutonium; where weeks are measured not with dates but the number of assignments you have left. Where your back will hurt from the thousand-page books you carry and your head will ache from staring at highlighted paragraphs for too long. Get ready to make sacrifices, in the form of friends, family and sanity. You enter the torture chamber of medical school, which involve getting cooked under pressure, being skewed multiple ways by different commitments, and emotionally violated by lecturers and supervisors alike. But you come out the other end a stronger, embattled individual, possibly with whiter hair, an involuntary twitch in your eye and post-traumatic flashbacks when you think back to those times.
Maybe medical school isn’t so different from the real world after all.