Today I wanted to discuss a topic that I get asked a lot. At least 20% of the messages I receive on Instagram are along the lines of: ‘Hi, I am currently in high school and hope to go into medical school in the future. How do I know if I will like it?’ or ‘How did you decide that you wanted to be a doctor?’. Whether you are at school deciding whether or not to pursue the long journey to becoming a doctor, or whether you thinking of switching your career path, there are many things to consider.
When I was deciding whether medicine is the right subject/career for me, these are the things I considered:
- Did I enjoy my work experience and could I see myself doing this day in and day out? Doing work experience is THE MOST IMPORTANT way to decide whether or not you can see yourself being a doctor. Without talking to other doctors and seeing their day-to-day life, it is impossible to truly tell whether or not you could see yourself doing the same job.
- Am I doing this for me or for others e.g. parents, teachers etc? Many people feel pressured by others in their lives to pursue a career in medicine because of the prestige and job security that it offers. Although having a stable job is important, medicine is definitely not the only profession that can give you this option.
- Do I have the right personality for it? Or, would I like to develop the necessary traits throughout my training? Some of the traits that are expected of medical students and doctors include strong academic ability, commitment, determination, communication skills, people skills e.g. empathy, teamwork skills, potential for leadership, ability to manage stress, good time management and so many more.
- Do you want to spend 5/6 years at university (or longer in other countries)? A medical degree is significantly longer than most other degrees. While many of the friends you meet at university will be off getting their first jobs, buying houses and getting married, you are still going to be at university studying to become a doctor. While for many people this is a small price to pay, others may not want to spend the extra time at university.
- Can I afford the degree? This is an especially important consideration for people who are pursuing medicine as a second degree, but can affect anyone. While there is a lot of help for people training to be a doctor, you might need to postpone starting medical school or work throughout your training.