It’s a pretty difficult question. Whether you’re thinking of a career in medicine, your personal statement or preparing for an interview, it’s sometimes hard to articulate exactly why the medical field is so attractive. I’ve been living the medical student life for four years and I still struggle to put it into words!
So, it’s not surprising that the mere idea of entering the medical field doesn’t always occur to us, even to those who’d really enjoy and excel at it. Here, I’ve tried to put words to those complex motivations, both to awaken an interest in those dormant potential doctors, and to help my colleagues to express their love for the discipline!
1. We can really help people
To be a doctor is to help people, to alleviate pain and make them feel better. We are the caretakers of humanity, the maintenance people. Patients come to us, we patch them up and send them out to have the best and happiest lives they can.
And the best part?
They’ll forget our names. Every last one of them. Because it’s not about us as individual doctors, it’s about us as a people, as a collective species. We do what we do because it needs to be done and somebody needs to do it.
We’re not especially good or noble – we’re just the idiots who volunteered!
2. We use science every day
Medicine is a science that we apply constantly. We generate hypotheses based on medical histories and physical examinations, and we challenge them with imaging and tests. And those methods themselves rely on scientific thinking to carry them out and interpret the results.
If you’ve got an inquiring mind with some sharp critical thinking skills, you’d never get bored. Every case is a new puzzle with its unique set of problems.
And that’s so exciting.
3. Medicine is many sciences
Okay, I know I said medicine was a science, but you’d be hard-pressed to suggest a science that isn’t somehow involved in healthcare.
Later, once you’re a medic, you can branch out into even more STEM disciplines. From applying your medical knowledge to developing new equipment, to coding personal health apps, to complex mathematical models of disease spread – you can literally go anywhere.
And yes. Space medicine is a specialty. Medicine and space. Need I say more?
4. So many career paths
With a dizzying number of specialties in medicine and surgery, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s all you can do with the degree. But apart from anaesthetists and beyond brain surgeons, there’s a whole host of careers in medicine!
Perhaps you want to advise governments as Chief Medical officer or decide how concussed Premier League footballers are. Or maybe you want to change healthcare with technology and engineering to create some cool app or device. Medical training can take you pretty much anywhere, as long as humans are running about, all squishy and fragile…
5. You can do more than science
Further to the previous reason, science doesn’t have to be your whole life. If you’ve got some other passion, you can very easily combine it with medicine.
If you love writing, you could write the next Jurassic Park. Or if you’re into politics, you could stand for elections. You could even get involved in show business, advising on television programmes or film sets.
6. You get to use hands-on skills
Medicine is a wonderful blend of knowing a lot and being able to do a lot with that knowledge. If you become a doctor or surgeon, you can apply those dusty old facts through countless practical procedures on a day to day basis. This is a great attraction for those of us who find lectures and books really boring in comparison to delivering a good, old-fashioned injection!
7. There’s always an opportunity to teach
The word “doctor” literally translates as “teacher”, which is really convenient if you like imparting knowledge! Teaching can be incredibly rewarding and it’s going to be necessary when training each new generation of doctors. So, if you’re torn between teaching and medicine, do medicine so you can do both!
8. Working in multidisciplinary teams
Worry not about being surrounded by boring doctors all day because you’ll always be around professionals of several disciplines. We work closely with nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists and pharmacists – to name just a few!
The different points of view can be refreshing and, since every profession attracts slightly different personalities, your work life won’t devolve into a series of interactions with incredibly similar people. This was a massive relief when I learned about it!
9. Conferences are fun
Because so much research happens in medicine, there’s always a conference going on at any one time. You’ll find yourself at quite a few of these conferences during your time at medical school, and after you graduate, and they’re usually a great day out! Think of them as frequent holidays in random cities, with fancy food and big-name speakers. And lots of freebies. Lots of freebies. You’ll never need to buy a pen again!
10. People believe in you
Finally, this is the great privilege of being in medicine. We, as a profession, are placed in a unique position in the eyes of the public. Patients trust us with their lives, their health and their secrets. They tell us things they wouldn’t tell anyone else; we get to see so many lives in a single day.
And then, after it all, we’re allowed to try to help these people. It’s incredibly humbling to realise just how much the public believe in our ability and our integrity, and that faith is a huge part of the reward.
Here we are, at the foot of the list, hopefully with better insight into a life in medicine. It’s not an easy career and the lifestyle can be difficult to keep up with, but there are certainly many positives that make it worth it. If these reasons to study medicine have piqued your interest, and you like a challenge, I’d urge you to go visit some medical schools and apply!
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