The musings of a final year medical student

Sunday, 9 October 2016


The thing that has surprised me about medicine is that there are so many ways to practice it. Of course, I was aware that there are loads of career specialities I could pursue with a medical degree, but often I am wondering what kind of doctor I want to be. I've always been the person looking 10 steps ahead, rather than appreciating what is in front of me. And so despite only being in my 3rd year, I'm trying to figure out my career now. Realistically, I have at least 4 years until I have to choose the speciality I want to pursue, assuming I don't take time off or do an intercalated degree. But I still have no idea.

I went to an intercalation talk on Friday, and what one of the speakers said really hit home. The anaesthetist finished his speech by saying "Do you want to be the person following the guidelines or writing the guidelines". The way he said it suggested that the former would be too boring, and not ambitious enough. 

When I decided I wanted to be a doctor, it was because I loved biology and talking to people, but hated doing laboratory experiments. I wanted to understand people's lives, as well as how drugs work on the body. I love chatting to patients and letting them tell their story. And so when I got to medical school, I was astonished that people wanted to sit in labs and pipette things, use PCR, interpret data and calculate P values. I thought that was the point of other science degrees, and medicine was about the application, not the process. There are now plenty of medical students who are eager to get published, do intercalated degrees with their own research projects. That really isn't for me. 

However, I'm stuck  in this slightly awkward position of trying to enhance my career without doing things I know I hate. Involvement with research and extra degrees really help your medical CV and may help you to clinch your favourite training programme. They are not essential, but many of the high fliers have them. 

For some people, the glamour attached to a particular speciality is worth something. For example, being a surgeon seems a lot cooler than being a GP. But why do we think that? We need the surgeon and the GP. In first year, I wanted to get published, do an intercalated degree and hopefully be a surgeon. Now I've realised anatomy is bloody boring without knowing the physiology and clinical application of said knowledge, and sitting in my room on my laptop or in a lab doing electrophoresis are equally boring. The fun stuff is in the consulting room, on the wards, wherever the patients are. 

If writing the guidelines means looking at confidence intervals in the library, I'd much rather follow the guidelines and actually be in front of the patient.


  1. I'm not a doctor but I am a MA social work student, and I couldn't agree more! There are so many ways in which inform our practice but essentially, it's where the people are that make the whole job interesting. That's why we go into these professions, really? xxx

    Sam // What I Know Now

    1. I totally agree! The people are the most interesting part :)
      Kate x


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