So often we hear stories of people knowing they wanted to be a doctor for as long as they could remember. Even most of my graduate medicine counterparts studied science subjects at university and always had medicine in the back of their mind.
For me…I wanted to be an author and theatre director/producer. I have always loved reading and writing (as you may have gathered from my Instagram feed!) Medicine had never crossed my mind as a child, I was always set on a career in the arts.
I grew up in a very creative family. My mum is a theatre costume maker, my dad was a theatre prop maker and my sister is now a musical theatre performer. I always did ballet, theatre groups, played musical instruments and made films in my garden. Also, no one in my family other than the odd distant cousin had ever been to university and so medicine and science weren’t really ever a part of my life and weren’t even a consideration.
When I was 8 years old, my father passed away from lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. This meant that for many years I was surrounded by hospitals and hospices. This environment had become a sign of bad news and difficult times. Despite forming close relationships with the nursing and medical staff that cared for my dad, I don’t think that I ever thought I could be like them. All the death and blood and vomit was something I wanted to be as far away from as possible. Writing also played a large part in my grieving process and reading books about characters who had loved and lost gave me a lot of relief.
At A-Levels I randomly decided to do Biology amongst Film, English Literature, Psychology and a few half A Levels. I remember my mum asking why I had picked it at last minute and the honest answer was because I really enjoyed it. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me that this enjoyment was something I could explore further but I did my A Levels and applied to a BA English Literature as planned.
I was lucky enough to get the grades I had hoped for and make it into my top choice of university. Once I arrive at Newcastle University, I was so excited to get stuck into the books and explore a new city. But I quickly found that English Literature wasn’t giving me what I had wanted. I was overwhelmed with a feeling that the essays I was writing would all but be thrown away. I questioned what the point of my degree was. This is not to say that I don’t think there is a point – literature, as I said, has been a lifeline for me. Learning to see the world through the perspective of people who are completely different to you is amazing and hearing stories of different people and different experiences is incredible. Literature is an art and for those who love it, the degree is amazing. I was struck though by the difference in what I loved about the books we read and what others wrote about. While I loved the stories and how the language used could depict different cultures and ways of thinking, others were interesting in sentence structure and metaphor. I realised it was the people in the books that I loved, not necessarily the writing itself.
I was left with a period of time, wondering what I was going to do with my life. As someone who had always had a goal, worked hard, achieved it and moved on, the feeling of not knowing what was next really demotivated me. I decided to explore teaching and randomly took a volunteer placement in The Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital School. Here I taught children by the bedside, altering their education to fit their treatments and work with other target such as learning to write with an amputated digits or do MAKATON. Here I fell in love with the hospital environment. Every time the doctors came to discuss how we could help the children with their condition, I desperately wanted to know more. Suddenly all the years I had spent volunteering at a child bereavement charity, and various other health care related charity made sense. I spoke to some of my friends who were studying medicine and was so jealous when I heard what they were doing. I just kept feeling sad that it was ‘too late’. I didn’t have the right A Levels and I couldn’t afford to do another degree so that ship had sailed.
Then one day I heard the term ‘graduate entry medicine’. I jumped online and discovered a world of funded courses and some that accepted art graduates. I will never forget the feeling of realising this was an option and knowing whole-heartedly it was what I wanted to do. I started my dissertation on doctors in literature and focused on graduating so I could become a doctor. Despite the odd day of wondering why I would put myself through all the exams and living like a student again, I can honestly say that I was definitely right and I really love what I do now.
I will be writing a blog about my application progress and tips for other non-science graduates going into medicine, but this is my little story and I thought I would share it with you all.