Medicine’s not going too badly at the minute. I’m on placement in a District General Hospital and finishing up on anaesthetics (the science of sleep) before moving onto a month in accident & emergency. I’m definitely enjoying my course, and it’s nice being a final year and actually knowing what people are talking about. At least most of the time.
Anaesthetics isn’t the most critically-useful placement as a medical student, though. It’s something you don’t really tend to do unless you’re training to be an anaesthetist, so I’ve been trying to take advantage of the useful opportunities it provides: being comfortable with fluid management, getting some practical procedure experience, revising physiology and pharmacology and dealing with patients who are particularly ill.
But now that I’m in my last year, literally everyone I speak to brings up the topic of finals, and has their own bit to say on how best to prepare for them. And to me they just seem like such a long way away- I mean really folks, they’re not until June so calm your cacks. However if I think about it, medicine’s pretty vast and there’s an awful lot of information to cover in that time. And a heck of a lot of other tickboxes that I’ve gotta fill out before then, in the way of various different pieces of coursework etc. So perhaps it’s a good idea to think about the finish line in advance.
It basically boils down to the question of how I want to approach the year, something I thought I’d already decided. Virtually every medical student you speak to will say they want to be the best doctor they can be. But that’s not necessarily the truth- from speaking to people who are really fricking on the ball it makes you realise how much you’re not, and the work that it requires to get there. I’ve learnt from uni that in order to get somewhere and achieve something really valuable, you have to bloody well put the effort in. The reward this year is a “distinction” in finals. Your mark in finals doesn’t count for anything, but having a distinction is a particular badge of pride, and one not easy to obtain.
I’ve worked hard in previous years and at times have been lucky enough for it to pay off. So I’m trying to decide about whether or not to gun for a distinction this year, to end up being one of those really clever people who seem to just know everything. But through speaking to them I can see how much sheer devotion you have to have for the subject. They start preparing like mad from the word go, and work their asses off. In the past achieving something has involved sacrificing your time, but it seems to me that in order to become one of these distinction-winning, omniscient-yet-lovely doctors you almost have to sacrifice a part of who you are. At least who I am.
It means sitting and reading through textbooks, memorising acronyms and researching logical thought processes, learning strategems and management plans, and building this all up into one cohesive network. Rather than catching up with a friend. Rather than relaxing and doing whatever I feel like. Rather than seeing what exactly’s been going on in Westeros or Greendale. I know these are all lazy things, but hell I’m a lazy guy. And so I’m reluctant to give up these things too easily.
But then that’s like me setting a limit at my potential. Saying “I want to be the best doctor I can be, but not if it requires me to stop watching Parks and Recreation”. It’s a decision I’m mulling over at the minute, aware that it’s the start of the year so I needn’t get too stressed out, but also that a battle plan and an organised mind are pretty decent tools for approaching the future.
Just how good a doctor do I want to be?