3 Surprising Things I Learned From Medical Work Experience
Medical work experience is extremely varied and you may be surprised at the things you learn – and how much this can teach you about medicine. Here are three surprising things I learnt from my medical work experience!
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1. You don’t have to be interested in every part of medicine
As an over-excited and enthusiastic medicine applicant, it’s easy to think that you have to be in love with every single aspect of medicine. After all, you need to prove that you are worthy of getting in, and surely – you might think – that this means you can’t have a single negative thought about it? Fortunately, that’s simply not true!
One of the first things I learnt during my work experience was that some parts of medicine are quite boring. This is different for everybody, of course – I think the ophthalmologist in the eye clinic I was observing was having a great time. I, on the other hand, found it somewhat mind-numbing. Initially, I was worried that this meant that I was not suitable as a medicine applicant.
However, a useful chat with another doctor made me realise that this was perfectly normal. In A&E, my enthusiasm was reassuringly rekindled.
2. General practice work is very varied
Truthfully, I went into my placement thinking that general practice was not going to be as interesting as hospital medicine. I thought it simply dealt with coughs and colds, occasionally prescribing antibiotics, inhalers and creams for rashes. That’s all I’d ever been to the GP for, after all!
This, of course, is quite a ludicrous thing to think, and could not be further from the truth. Just one clinic will show you the huge variety involved in general practice. For example, in just in one day, I saw:
- A man who had a heart attack and wanted to know what he could do to prevent another
- A patient with an amputation, suffering from “phantom limb pain”
- A patient with schizophrenia, suffering delusions that they were being followed
- A young child who was suffering an asthma attack and needed an ambulance to take him to hospital
Sure, there were coughs and colds, too. However, I realised that reassuring people that they are well can also be hugely rewarding!
3. Doctors are people, just like everyone else
When you’re spending all your time and energy learning about the attributes of a good doctor it can be easy to put doctors on a pedestal and think of them as some kind of higher being. In my work experience, I picked up on the fact that this was not true – doctors are just human!
For example, during my work experience, I witnessed a young doctor fail to perform several blood tests and he then felt incredibly upset by this. I also observed a doctor who regularly stayed late feel anxious to leave on time to go to his son’s football match that evening.
Five years into my medical training, and less than six months away from starting work as a doctor, I can confirm this with even more certainty!
I hope this blog post can inspire you to reflect on what you saw in your work experience. Perhaps it was similar, or perhaps it was completely different to my experience. Either way, I am sure there are lots of things you learnt, and medical schools want to hear your thoughts about it, so make sure you reflect and prepare.
Words: Mariam Al-Attar
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