Tonight is what I could romantically call the eve of the first day of the final step in my almost decade long effort to achieve a life goal: to become a medical practitioner. To state that I am enthusiastic to start would be a massive understatement, as anyone that has seen me for the past few weeks can tell you. On the off chance that you have never met me, perhaps I can illustrate my excitement by telling you that I found myself staying up past 2am a few nights ago just so I could watch videos on fluid management and the various types of tubes we can use to keep a patient breathing.
As is expected, the more look forward to something the slower time seems to pass and this feeling of interminable waiting was exacerbated 2 days ago when my watch actually broke down without warning (Hence my crudely drawn timepiece above). In an effort to direct this nervous energy somewhere other than mad chattering about literally any topic that comes into my head, someone suggested I start writing this blog. While I appreciate that my high energy word barrage can sometimes be too much for people, the main reason I went along with the idea to start this blog is that when you start medical school you are told repeatedly that the experiences will change you permanently. Since the entire medical school experience costs so damn much I might as well keep a track to make sure Iam getting my money’s worth in personal transformation. If anyone else is interested in my musings while I do this, then you are welcome company. It’s getting late now and I don’t want to be too tired for tomorrow so I should probably wrap this up but first some important things to note from the get go.
A Note on Privacy
You have probably noticed from what I have written so far and what I will write in the future that I go to great lengths to avoid making an potentially identifying notes about where I study or the hospital that I am studying at. This is for two important reasons.
One, I can’t guarantee that I will not at some point make an exasperated comment about one of my fellow students or some other poor sod, and I would prefer that a temporary outburst not sour any personal or professional relationship. This goes double if I make an innocent comment that may cause offense.
Secondly, patient privacy is a major concern for me and everyone in healthcare (or should be a concern at the least) and while I intend for this blog to be about myself and how I react to what I see I might accidentally make a comment that is potentially identifying and so I would find it reassuring that the readers can’t tell which city I am writing from. Hopefully we can have enough fun together without naming and shaming a bunch of people that have happened to wander in front of me while I am in a bad mood.
My Story So Far…
Finally if we are to chart my progress through this new and exciting chapter of my life, I guess it’s important that you as the reader have a little background about me to compare against future posts from the Anonymous Medical Student. As much as I can anyway without giving away too much information.
I guess the most important thing to start off with is The Big Question, the one asked in all medical school interviews around the country: Why Do You Want To Do Medicine? Most people open up with the tried and true “I want to help people” but I’ve always found that to be an incredibly flaccid opening explanation. The answer assumes that you are somehow unique in your desire to help your fellow humans while 99% of the population are constantly looking for opportunities to punch grandmothers and steal food from children. Secondly, it assumes that medicine is the only way possible to help others which anyone should be able to tell is simply not true. Yes doctors help keep you alive, but nurses help just as much, and garbagemen serve equally important roles in preventing sickness and making sure our society runs smoothly.
For me, medicine holds the promise of constantly being challenged and pushed to become not only a better and more reasoning thinker, but also a more compassionate person with a deeper understanding of the human condition. If you want to put it bluntly, Problem Solving With a Smile. I first realised this was the direction I wanted to take my life in Year 7, after I parted with a short lived desire to become a famous actor. Not that career decisions made by 12 year olds mean much more than the ones made by 5 year olds that want to become the Tooth Fairy, but that is when the idea of becoming a doctor first crossed my mind.
For the next few years not much changed and so when I arrived in my final years of high school arrived I chose the subjects I needed to study Biomedical Science and then proceeded to angst myself through Year 12. As luck would have it, I graduated with a high enough ATAR to study at a decent university where I then attained my Bachelor’s Degree. The third year of getting this degree is where our story gets more interesting. To anyone in their undergraduate studies reading this and thinking about applying for medicine or anything they are as passionate about, you will need to prepare for the oddly unnerving experience of filling out the application forms for the MD. The stress of wanting it to go well makes you question absolutely everything ‘Am I sure that is how you spell my name?’ ‘Shit when was my birthday again?’ but that is nothing compared to the angst that you feel (at least I did) after you hit submit and then spend months having heard nothing from the university and then fretting over every possible reason that your application might be rejected. At first you start off with the reasonable: your scores weren’t high enough, but the longer the abominable silence lasts the more bizarre you start to get a bit more extreme in your thoughts. Now all of a sudden you happened to mispell your email address and insert someone else’s so there is some unsuspecting Linguistics Major who is being offered a position in your favourite medical school. But when the schools have had their fun eventually they send you an interview offer and you get to celebrate your success. For about 30 seconds.
Suddenly it then hits you that you have now been invited to an event where a number of strangers will assemble to score you on your personality, and there is not much that you can do to prepare or study for the experience. For most medically minded people that I have met so far, the idea of ‘I can’t study for this’ is not something that sits well. But dread the day as you might, eventually it arrives and you put on your fancy looking doctor clothes and drag yourself to be assessed on the core fundamentals of who you are as a person, and try to forget what you would think of yourself if you got rejected after today’s test. It would be one thing to be told you didn’t study enough but quite another to have someone walk in decide that some aspect of who you are, say your motivation to study medicine, is deficient in some way. In any case I will refrain from mentioning more about the Medical School Interview Process in the interests of time and saving material for future posts.
So once that particular ordeal is done then starts up another period of interminable waiting as you spend the next few months thinking over what happened in those interviews and wondering if it is enough to get you through to the Promised Land: Medical School. And some stress and anxiety and then eventually you are reaching unbearable levels of nervousness just as the offers come out, which happens to coincide with the final exams for your entire degree. Once again universities, thanks. If you are lucky enough to receive an acceptance letter then becomes the first fully legitimately happy time since you sat down early in the year and started to fill out that blasted form. No more interviews hanging over your head, no more need to check your spam folder every 20 minutes in case you missed something important. You can relax. Then once Christmas is done and New Year’s is packed away you start to get excited and anxious to start Medical School: Pre-Clinical Years. Once again I will leave off talking too much about this period of my training here because it is getting late and I really should sleep, and I would prefer to have a full post to talk about the interesting bouquet of memories (both sweet and sour) that serve as my pre-clinical experience.
So fast forwarding through that we arrive at the end of the pre-clinical stuff, which for me was November 2016. Since then I have been trying to enjoy my break with varying levels of success throughout the period. I am not going to lie and say I spent the entire 3 months waiting for medical school start again, I most certainly didn’t, but certainly since the new year has started it has been harder and harder to focus on most things and I find myself if not trying to actively prepare for the year ahead I will be making lists of the things I need to do in order to prepare. Buy more doctor clothes, revise appropriate topics, have photo IDs taken for the hospital, and so on. A list of takes to help me maintain at least external composure while on the inside I have a happy child jumping up and down yelling ‘THIS IS AWESOME’ while a wiser old sage sits on a rock somewhere and pleads caution ‘Let’s just do our best to be ready, we don’t know what could happen’. At least that was the internal make up of my brain as of a week ago, since then I feel like the sage may have gone on sabbatical because things have mostly been counting down the days until I can finally start to do what I came to university to do, work in a hospital. As of tonight that is where I feel myself to be, standing on a mountaintop staring out over a vista of infinite new possibility and (mis)adventures, trying desparately to make sure I keep my enthusiasm on a tight enough leash to prevent injury to myself or others as I start to traverse the landscape below.
I hope that you join me next week, while I tell you about my first foray into this promisng and only slightly bewildering wilderness.