The musings of a final year medical student

Monday, 15 February 2016


It's 9.15pm, I'm in bed with my laptop, diary, notepad and Kumar and Clarke's Clinical Medicine. I'm trying to revise what I know about strokes because I have a stroke clinic tomorrow afternoon. I really want to impress my consultant, but it all looks too complicated. Stroke, FAST, TIA, infarction, cardio-embolic, hypo-perfusion, intracerebral, subarachnoid, stenosis, vasculopathy, foramen ovale, dissection, atrial fibrillation, statins, amaurosis fugax, hemianopia, ataxia, polycythaemia..... 


Revising about strokes is evidently not a light evening's read. And it's times like this that I truly wonder "How do I pass medical school?". 

I think most medical students would agree that there's never enough time to get everything done. I'm lucky enough to have mostly lecture-based teaching this year, whereas next year I will spend most of my time in a NHS setting 9-5. And in spite of this, I will be expected to revise and study in my spare time (weekends) whilst seeming to already work a full time job I won't get paid for. How do people do this?!

This year has been amazing but also scary. I feel so passionate and enthusiastic about medicine now that we are getting formal teaching of pathology, but equally it feels like someone has opened Pandora's Box, and what's coming out is frightening.

I now feel very invested in medicine and I have a 'thirst for knowledge' that I've never felt before. And it can be quite crushing when you pour your heart and soul into something, and then you do just OK in the exam. It is so deflating, exasperating even, to think "But I couldn't have worked any harder, and it's not good enough".

The thing is, it is good enough. You're not meant to know everything in second year. However, I feel very strongly that I want to excel in medicine and be a valuable contribution, and now doing brilliantly seems to be impossible. We all have to make mistakes in order to learn and grow, but it still stings and I still get embarrassed. 

With medicine, there is no 'end-point' to your knowledge. You could always read more, always look up more. And that is quite a bitter pill to swallow.  


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