Myth 1: Only science-y people do medicine
There’s this misconception that medicine is all about science – perhaps it has to do with the fact that headlines are always talking about ‘new’ cures and ‘exciting’ research, and promoting ‘wonder drugs’ for a myriad of conditions.
The truth is that yes, much of medicine is built upon science and biology in particular. But what surprised me was how little the typical idea of ‘science’ came into the actual act of doctoring. By doctoring I’m referring to seeing patients and trying to solve their problems. I realized that doctors (perhaps junior doctors especially) spend more time than anything else focused on communication (and administrative work!), and that ‘good doctors’ tended to be synonymous with ‘good communicators’.
That’s not to say that science isn’t important, as it provides the rationale for most of what doctor’s do. But it definitely isn’t all that medicine is about.
Myth 2: All doctors do the same thing
After all, they do the same degree, they have the same job title, and most of them work in the hospital or in primary care. Correct? Nah – it turns out that the further you go, the more varied the work gets. Some see patients all day everyday, and some don’t see patients at all! The point here is that many people who graduate with a medical degree don’t all go on to become your stereotypical hospital doctor – and even in the hospital setting different jobs within the field can result in very different day-to-day work, even if the end result is the same (that is, helping a patient get better). For example, some jobs might involve a lot of procedures which may be more technically demanding, such as that of an anaesthetic or surgical trainee. Other jobs might have much less patient contact or none at all, such as a job in radiology or histopathology. So although most doctors start off doing similar jobs as juniors, it definitely gets more varied over time.
Myth 3: All medical students do is study
The stereotypical medical student is your typical overachiever, who does nothing but study in the library and exercise at the gym. However, most students lead pretty balanced lives, and there’s definitely time in medical school to do lot so fun things outside medicine.
Medical students and doctors don’t work harder than anyone else trying to do their best at something. Perhaps one thing that drives doctors to the limit more than post is the knowledge that someone else’s life is in their hands, or it could be due to the fact that medicine tends to attract a lot of perfectionist, type A personalities. However, it would be a generalization to state that the profession works harder than any other, so don’t be put off or intimidated by the stereotype if it’s something you really want to do.
Myth 4: There’s no way I’ll get into medical school
It’s true that medical school is relatively competitive compared to other degrees, but don’t be put off by the statistics. It’s a funny one – many of us current medical students may have been offered a place at our dream university, but rejected by another one that was lower down on our list. There will be some things you can control, and some that you can’t – so try to stand out in those that you can. Everyone else you will be up against will have met the entry requirements, so think about what sets you apart and capitalize on that. Some medical schools do have an interview component, something that can definitely be intimidating. It helps to keep in mind that everyone is as nervous as you are, and that interviewers aren’t out to get you – most of them will try and help you as much as possible. In the event that you don’t get offered a place, sometimes applying again is an option – for a lot of people medicine is a lifelong career, and it does not make a massive difference to enter via another route such as after a gap year or through a graduate programme. However, the bottom line is not to get discouraged by the statistics – you will have as good a chance as everyone else.
Also published on Medium.