In retrospect

I have been through the most important exams of Medical School – that is, the ones whose grades are scrutinized by recruiting officers. Of course, that does not mean everything is all nice and dainty now because failing any exam from this semester till the end of the year would mean that i have to repeat the entire year. And i cannot tell you how much fear that instills in me, because i am just so damn sick of medical school.

The point is, before i embarked onto my clinical years – years where i finally spent time in hospitals, attempting to emulate the work of real doctors – the Dean, the medical students in the senior years and basically anyone else with a mouth (saved for a few slacker colleagues) all fervently advocated the need to see patients. Whilst it is important to see or clerk patients because we get a more realistic glimpse of medicine, they made it seem that you will fail if you do not clerk patients every damn day.

Ok, so i was a newbie, and i’m scared and i want to do well right? I heeded their advice. Well, ladies and gentlemen, i can tell you now that that was the most god-forsaken advice i ever got. No, i didn’t fail, but i did so spectacularly terribly that i was and still am aghast. Fast forward to the next semester, i was pissed and really i just about had it with medical school. So i did things my way. I think i clerked less than ten patients in my whole rotation, compared to the innumerable ones i saw when i just started clinical years. Guess what? I did much better with far less effort, and more time to enjoy my social life. What the fuck?

I can wish for a lot of things, but it does not matter because what’s past has passed. But that has taught me an important lesson. Sometimes you know yourself best. The conventional ways may work for the majority, but your own way, your own self-belief and confidence are far more important. Talking to patients is essential, but to tell you the truth, i probably learnt less than when i hit the books. When i have solidified my foundation, i know the signs and symptoms to spot, the right questions to ask, the correct investigations to run. And that makes clerking patients more constructive. Versus just learning purely out of clerking. You can then ask, why not do both? Sure – if you don’t have a social life and have loads of time to burn. For me, it was and still is just more efficient to hit the theory before learning to apply it. It saves me more time, and i get to enjoy doing extracurricular stuff, which i feel, is important in the study of Medicine, because it makes you a more balanced person (but like i say there are many different schools of thought, pick yours and stick with it).

So now it is time to apply for jobs. I am not particularly worried about my grades, partly because i have accepted that reality a long time ago, and partly because i know grades are not a good indicator of your clinical performance. I have seen colleagues who ace exams but are terrible when they interact with patients; and yet those who don’t do so well, astound me with their patient encounters. So i learn not to judge, and why should i anyway? It may help that the hospitals i am hoping to get it are not the large busy ones that everyone aspires to get into. Experience has taught me never to go for prestige. Medicine was one such lesson. Never apply for something when you are not sure whether you really want it. In the event that you are offered the opportunity, what are you going to do? Chances are, you are probably going to accept it regardless of your misgivings, because of the social pressure and the temptation and the what-ifs. (I have admitted this much to myself; i am fortunate that during the treacherous journey of medical school, i have acquired a liking for Medicine.)

And so i would really like to work in a small hospital – one where at least you know half the doctors, one where people have time to smile at each other when they pass in corridors, one where people are not frowning and impatient. Because that makes the environment more conducive to learn and to grow. And when you are a better happier person, you become a more competent doctor (or really, in any profession) and your chances of entering a training programme will naturally skyrocket (ok maybe not skyrocket, but at least improve immensely). I am very tired and sick of the cutthroat tactics and competitiveness of large hospitals. Some people strive on those factors and really hats off to them. I know i will shrivel up like a miserable seedling under the scorching sun and probably just quit Medicine altogether.

I am looking at hospitals not from my home state so there is a large possibility that i have to uproot my life (again) and settle down somewhere else. If i cannot get a job in this country, i still have the Homeland to think about which does have its perks and its cons. Perks? I finally get to enjoy familial warmth again. Cons? I may be downcast by the system in the Homeland and i may not be happy; i don’t think even familial warmth can override that. Plus there are a great many logistical issues such as causing the entire family to move into a larger house (not to forget i have grown accustomed to independent living) to accommodate the dog since the current body coporate disapproves of the large size of my dog. Too much shit to think about honestly. Oh well.

I have to apologize for rambling on – i was not going to talk about jobs till the deed is done, but i guess i can’t help it.

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