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19 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going To Medical School

Because you can't learn everything from work experience.

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1. Medicine is not for everyone.

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Every person experiences medicine in a different way. Your parents/extended family/family friends may think that medicine is the best career in the world (or even the only career in the world), but you aren't them, and you should NEVER apply to medicine just because someone told you to.

2. You won't actually spend that much time with your patients.

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When working in a hospital, your ward round consists of spending around five minutes per patient, and the majority of the time you'll be transcribing the conversation your senior is having with the patient. Only certain specialities, like family medicine or care of older people, involve getting to know your patients.

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3. In your first years, you'll spend more time doing admin than anything else.

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You'll graduate from medical school with so much excitement and determination to help people. But when you start as a junior doctor most of your time is spent doing paperwork, running around the hospital delivering paperwork, and requesting scans for patients you may have never even met.

4. Medicine is more than just liking science and wanting to help people.

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Medicine is about learning something new every day and developing your people skills to deal with angry family members. The pure science you learn in your first two years is rarely used on a clinical basis.

5. You probably won't be the star pupil/top of the class.

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You'll go from being a big fish in a small pond to being the smallest fish in a pond filled with some of the smartest people you will ever meet.

6. You will question why you wanted to do medicine more times than you can count.

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No matter how much you've dreamt about becoming a doctor, there will always be a point when you will look back and question your decision.

7. You won't be in it for the job satisfaction.

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Although there are a lot of kind-hearted patients out there who express their gratitude to their doctors, be prepared to meet some real jerks who do nothing but moan, demand things, shout at the staff, and threaten to put complaints in when things don't go their way.

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8. The amount of money you'll earn will never be worth the amount of time you work.

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After dealing with the blood, sweat, and tears of your patients (as well as other bodily fluids), you'll be incredibly disappointed when you open your first pay cheque. If you are applying to medicine for the money, you'll not really experience said money until you're a consultant or locum doctor, or you move abroad.

9. In the beginning, you are basically everybody's bitch.

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You spend all of medical school feeling pretty useless and running around looking for notes or getting coffee for the team, but when you graduate and become a doctor you suddenly find your self-worth.

10. No amount of planning will prepare you for your first real crash call.

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Your medical school and your work place will make you go through so many simulations that you will see the letters "ABC" every time you close your eyes. Despite this, when your bleep goes off for a real crash call for the first time, everything you know or once knew will fly out of your head.

11. It doesn't really matter where you go to medical school.

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Unlike other professions, medicine isn't about where you went to medical school or the prestige. Whether they went to Oxbridge or studied abroad in Prague, a good doctor is more than how much medicine they know or how many papers they've published.

12. You'll be surprised how quickly you develop a thick skin when dealing with patients dying.

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The first time one of your patients dies, it may hit you harder than you expected. But in your first year or so as a doctor, you'll experience patients dying and listen in on patients being given life-changing diagnoses. Little by little, you'll develop a coping mechanism.

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13. Your weekends will no longer be your weekends.

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By applying to medicine, you are signing up to a lifetime of working non-sociable hours including nights and weekends. You will miss more life events than you can count, simply because they happen to fall on a weekend when you're working and no one will swap with you.

14. Doctors are human – you will make mistakes.

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The public hold an image of doctors as people who know what they're doing at all times, even at 4am on your fourth night shift when you're deliriously tired. At some point or another, you're likely to make a patient-affecting mistake.

15. The hospital runs on the sacrifice of people's personal time.

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Remember that episode of Scrubs where J.D. described the hospital as "a big hungry monster that feeds on our personal lives"? Well, he pretty much nailed it. Once you start your job you'll realise how understaffed the wards can get. If people only did the hours they paid for, hospitals wouldn't last a day.

16. There is a lot of fear in the workplace.

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The medical profession is filled with legal responsibilities. The fear of getting a complaint from a patient, a black mark on your e-portfolio, or even getting called into coroner's court is always hovering around the hospital.

17. No amount of work experience, reading textbooks, or talking to doctors will prepare you for a career in medicine.

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The main reason why they make the application to medicine so difficult is because they want to see that you will 100% commit to it as a career. Medicine can be exciting and exhausting, and you'll only really know if it's for you once you've started working.

18. Wanting to study medicine, studying medicine, and practising medicine are very different things.

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Medicine is always changing, and you will change during your time at medical school. You may love your time at medical school and really enjoy a specific speciality, but in practice you may end up completely hating it.

19. You'll never stop learning in medicine.

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You'll sit all sorts of exams during medical school and you'll wait and wait for the day when you can say, "I just sat my last exam ever!" But alas, that day won't come for a long, long time. After you've graduated, be prepared for more studying, exams, courses, and keeping up-to-date with the latest in medicine – even when you're a consultant!

Note: This post is based on one person's experience of working in the industry.

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