The 5 Hardest Things About Studying Medicine

  1. No rest for the wicked! As a medical student, you will have one of the densest timetables at your university. At Cambridge, while some friends may have 2-3 hours of lectures a week, you can easily have double that in day, not to mention the supervisions, reading, and essays that also need to be completed. You can often feel like you’re missing out on some of the social events, that most of your friends have time to do!
  2. When studying medicine, it’s too easy to feel guilty when taking time off; there’s always a new disease you could look up, another practical skill you could polish. When there’s a never-ending list of skills and knowledge you need to acquire, it can often feel like doing anything other than work is slacking. Creating a work-life balance is incredibly difficult mentally, even is you have set personal time aside.
  3. Medicine, while a science, can also be incredibly emotional. Often you are dealing with, not only sick (or even dying) patients, but their family and friends. Even outside of the hospital, often we may have lectures that may strike a chord, particularly if you are dealing with things in your personal life. Having to remain strong, in what may be an emotionally draining setting, requires a hell of a lot of resilience!
  4. Competition! While I love my medic friends, sometimes it can feel as if we are all competing against each other; for a better exam result, for a place on paper, or the attention of a consultant. This can sometimes make it hard to completely relax around these friends, and be open about times that you are struggling, or even about success!!
  5. The uncertainty: in the current, British, political climate, the future of the NHS is not very clear. As medical students, this uncertainty about what the future holds for us, and for our patients, can be a great concern. Attitudes of hospital staff, and those they treat, have been affected by the instability and disorganisation of the NHS, and lack of support by the government, and this can sometimes make it a difficult environment to work in.


However, do not let this put you off! There are plenty of reasons to love and appreciate medical school, and my top 5 will be revealed in my next blog post!

Is It Possible to Separate Medicine and Your Personal Life?

Medicine is weird in the sense that everything you learn is easily applicable to real life. Particularly with the modern day focus on ‘lifestyle’ diseases, a lot of what we learn is about how to advise others on living healthily and safely.  This can put medical professionals themselves under a lot of pressure. After all, how can we preach to others about the ‘right’ way to live, if we do not abide by those rules ourselves?

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I remember distinctly the first meeting I had with my Director of Studies, on my FIRST day at university. It was clearly explained that, while university is a great place to explore and experiment, as a medical student, I simply could not operate in the same parameters as the students around me. This is because, given the nature of my degree, and future career, the sort of mistakes my friends could easily move past, could, essentially, ruin my life.

Now this was fairly easy to ignore initially. The first few years of my degree were not different to any others; lectures and essays, with little contact with patients, or education on clinical medicine. Safe to say, I had a similar undergraduate experience to other students, had a lot of fun, made a lot of mistakes, and luckily never got into too much trouble.

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However, things changed once I started the clinical part of my degree. It was a little harder to have a guilt-free, alcohol-filled night, and then return to clinics on Monday, and advise others to abstain. I struggled to turn a blind eye to my friends’ cigarette or drug use, when I had endless teaching on just how damaging this was to their health. How could I preach about the benefits of exercise and healthy diet, when I was in such poor shape myself?

This is still something I struggle with. I am not perfect, and certainly never will be. I make active efforts to live my life in the healthiest way possible, but often fall short of the mark. And of course, when it come to my friends and family, sanctimonious lecturing on just how ‘unhealthy’ they are, probably wont go down very well. But is turning a blind eye, and accepting that my habits will never mirror my advice, the way forward?

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Is this something you’ve struggled with? How have you coped? Please let me in know, in the comments below!

The Importance of Humility

One thing that has become increasingly evident, in my time in medical school, is that I cannot survive this career if I continue to view myself as a self-sufficient island. When I started university, I came from a position of very rarely needing help, as I’m sure many medical students do. We’re often top of our class, used to puzzling out our problems by ourselves, and usually giving advice and help to others. While this success is useful for our confidence, and, of course, our success, it also feeds another, less positive part of our being, our ego. And as my mother always says, ‘Pride comes before a fall’.

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This was lesson I learned he hard way when I started university. From almost my first day at Cambridge, my journey good only be described as one thing; a struggle. Even now, in my final year, six of six, this is the still the most apt way to describe my time here. However, this is not unique. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a medical student who will describe their time at university as ‘easy’. Unfortunately, you may need to press quite hard for this information; despite medical students often struggling with the stress and pressure of their degree, we can often still remain tight lipped about how hard we find things.

However, keeping silent about our struggles can be dangerous, for us and for out patients. I’ve discussed a little before about why it’s so important, for our mental health and well being, to be open when we find things difficult. But it’s almost more important to be honest about when we feel unsure about things relating to our patients. While admitting that you aren’t’ sure about a patient’s diagnosis, or management, may hurt your ego, attempting to save your pride can be fatal. This is why humility, and the ability to ask for help, are some the most important characteristics a doctor can have.

Even now, I still have to fight the desire to smile and nod numbly, when a doctor mentions a disease or drug I’ve never heard of. But getting used to saying ‘Actually, I don’t know’ is good for me, and great for my patients.

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Let me know if this is something you’ve struggled with, or if you have any tips you have for getting over it.

Outfit:

Jacket – Primark (Similar)

Turtle-neck – Zara (Similar)

Check trousers- Mango (Sold Out)

Bag – Chanel

Trainers – Adidas