Hello, thanks for popping over to my blog. This will be my first proper post…exciting! I thought I would introduce myself a little bit more. I did a first degree in English Literature at Newcastle University, graduating in 2016. Even though I did enjoy my first degree, I always felt like I wasn’t getting what I wanted from it. I love to read but my passion diminished while I was studying. I increasingly felt like I wanted to be doing a career involving people. A long story short, I eventually realised that medicine was the course for me and set about applying to graduate entry.
For those who aren’t aware, Graduate entry medicine (GEM) is a course for people who already have a degree in a different subject and want to do medicine as a second degree. It is an accelerated course consisting of 4 years rather than the 5 or 6 years that traditional courses do. There is a breakdown for us of 1 year pre-clinical and 3 years clinical practice.
When I found out I had a place at Warwick, I was completely over the moon. However, going back to studying after a few years of living and working in one place was intimidating for me. As excited as I was, there were several things that really worried me about starting this new path. In this blog I thought I would share some of the things that worried me the most, and how I feel about those things now.
Will I Be Good Enough?
I think this was one of my main fears going into the course. Although I had done well at school and A-Levels it had always taken me a lot of work to get these grades. I had seen people, we all know one or two, who seemed to be able to ace the exams with minimal effort. This made me wonder if I had enough ‘natural intelligence’ to do medicine. Also, I think that coming from a non-science background, I hadn’t done science in a long time and was worried that I would be really far behind my peers who had just finished a degree in biomed.
And now? I’ll be honest, I still have that fear from time to time. What is reassuring though is that, so does EVERYONE else on my course. I think that medicine is the sort of subject where there will always be more to learn and always be room for improvement. The difference now is that I am confident that if I work hard and stay happy and healthy, I can do the job to the best of my ability. I have had to accept that I wouldn’t have been offered a place if I wasn’t good enough. Being confident in your ability is something that medical school aims to teach you along the way too so, if you’re worried about that I would say – there is only one way to find out so grab the bull by the horns and give it your best shot.
This is a big one and, again, I was not alone in this fear. Before starting GEM I was working full time as a nursing assistant and living with someone in Oxford. Financially I was comfortable and making some savings. It has to be said that I was on minimum wage in the most unaffordable city in the UK so being good at budgeting really helped! The pay drop of going back to studying was dramatic, and what’s worse is that it decreases a little more for years 2-4. I managed to get through first year without a job or any help from family, but I did have a small amount of savings from working to tide me over. This year I work as a resident tutor at the university and this gives me dramatically reduced rent. It isnt easy living on such a small income, but it’s important to note that I haven’t heard of anyone on my course leaving for financial reasons, and there are people with families and mortgages studying alongside me. Universities normally have sums of money in hardship funds and there is always financial advice available so I wouldn’t let this put you off, but you may have to do without the finer things in life for a few years.
Will I Cope With the Work and Stress?
This was a big one for me. In my undergraduate I had quite a rough time. Medicine isn’t well known for being easy on mental health and it is a stressful first year. I would be doing you all a disservice if I said it was a breeze, because it wasn’t. We do our first two years of medicine in one and that is not an easy task, particularly if you’re going into it barely knowing what a cell is, like me. The work was not actually as bad as I thought it would be. It really is true that the content isn’t hard, there is just a lot of it. The stress for me was exacerbated by several things going awry in my personal life and so I had some really tough weeks but for me, the whole thing has been worth it and I haven’t regretted my decision. Medicine really is my passion and so as stressful as it can be, I often find myself really enjoying parts of it and this makes it worthwhile.
Finally, There was a Sense of Putting My Life on Hold
Friends are starting to buy houses and even get married. They have stable jobs with lovely salaries and 2 holidays a year. Meanwhile, I am scouting Aldi for the cheapest loaf of bread and living with a bunch of 18 year olds that I have somehow found myself in charge of looking after whilst drunk at 4am. (Them drunk not me, although it would be far more amusing if I were). This has been a difficulty to get my head around at times, particularly when money is low. But, the truth is, I feel as though I am making some sacrifices now so that I can have the life I want and enjoy later. Also, there are many upsides to being a student. I feel a lot freer studying and managing my own time than I did in work and, importantly I am doing what I love. When I am done, I think that progression will feel all the more sweet for having waited for it.
So, if you are lying awake at night worrying about similar things then, please, remember that you’re doing something positive for yourself and you are brave to be doing it. There is a real sense of pride when you are achieving something you never thought was possible and if I can do it, then so can you.