Some points to consider
Medicine is one of the most demanding and competitive of all universitycourses and remains the ambition of many of the most gifted science students. Medical schools demand not only exceptional A Levels but also high scores in aptitude tests such as the BMAT or UKCAT. Successful candidates will have written excellent personal statements in their UCAS applications, as well as demonstrating intelligence and commitment in their interviews. They will also have undertaken a variety of appropriate extracurricular activities.
It is obvious that a medical career should never be pursued as a whim.The importance of this point has recently been emphasized by coverage in the national press of doctors who are abandoning medicine for other less gruelling professions. These have ranged from designing cars to hairdressing, not to mention the more conventional option of high finance.
This phenomenon reflects the fact that the life of a doctor usually involves long working hours and can be far from glamorous or even personally rewarding. One anaesthetist recently pointed out that doctors with his specialization rarely receive shows of gratitude, while NHS practice in all areas is described as being hampered by bureaucracy. Increasingly, managers make important decisions that affect clinical outcomes, and medicine is generally regarded as having become too risk-averse and impersonal. Even the profession’s camaraderie and teamwork, as portrayed in films and television dramas from ‘Doctor in the House’ to ‘ER’, seems to be an illusion. Many British health professionals complain that the relationship between junior doctors and consultants is fragmented and dysfunctional. The situation does not seem to be improving.
I am disappointed to be presenting such a negative picture of medicine as a career. Unhappiness at work is not, after all, unique to doctors, and clearly some medical professionals manage to have rewarding personal and professional lives. It is, nonetheless, salutary to bear all these factors in mind when considering an application to medical school. Is the life of a doctor really for you, and will you be able to embrace its unique demands and challenges?