Community Blogs

Jumping Ship

So I’ve been talking to Skyglow about this, and he’s convinced me it’s a good idea to write a blog on it. I wasn’t sure at first (still don’t know if I am), but here goes:
I’m thinking about quitting medical school. I’ve been thinking about it for pretty much this entire year.

Last year, and first year, I loved it all. I may have gotten tired, stressed, and a bit burnt out, but I loved the stuff we were learning, and so it was fine, and I did really quite well. This year has not been like that. The content is boring. There, I said it: preclinical medicine is f**king boring. There is next to no actual intellectual stimulation, it’s just rote-learning lots of big lists of semi-related facts. We barely see any patients (and those we do see are in such ‘controlled’ environments that they’re barely worth seeing), and so there’s no real application of the material. I don’t even know if applying the material would help; it’s still going to be boring even if you’re doing something with it.

Even if the material wasn’t boring, it’d be tedious to learn, because so very much of it is very blatantly irrelevant to what we’re going to need to know later on.

So I’m thinking of quitting. I know a lot of people say how much better it gets during clinical years, and I’d imagine that’s at least partially true (especially in terms of seeing the relevance of all the stuff you’re learning). But at the same time, I don’t even know if I can see myself as a doctor any more. I always thought, before entering medical school, that I’d be really good at the ‘patient contact’ side of things. Well, that was wrong. I’m hopeless at histories, I botch exams, I’m just all-round mid-pack-at-best when it comes to clinical stuff. And I don’t even really care.

That sounds really harsh, saying you don’t really care about other peoples’ problems. I’m not even sure I should say it on here, because I almost feel ashamed of thinking that way. But I’ve decided this blog is going to be the raw truth of how I’m feeling, so there it is: I don’t really care about other peoples’ problems. And so now the idea of dedicating my life to dealing with other peoples’ problems seems kind of weird. Maybe that’s something that’ll come to me when I’m dealing with real people, rather than very plastic OSCE patients, and the few highly-vetted out-patients our med school lets us see in preclinical years.
On that note, I actually think OSCEs have killed my empathy skills. It becomes ‘Just give me the script I know you’ve memorised…’ as opposed to a real person telling you how something’s making them feel.

But will I actually jump? I mean, if I don’t get my act together, I could end up being pushed (I haven’t exactly had much motivation this year, for obvious reasons), but that aside…
”Nooo, wait for me!’ shouted frootloop, as that train departed’-Skyglow.
And he’s right. I’ve already dropped $50,000 on my medical education, and if I dropped out, I’d have no qualification, and as such paying that sort of money back would be… Difficult. But it’s not only that -my friends, family, and casual acquaintances all now define me largely by what I study. My parents are so very proud of their medical offspring, and (to my disapproval) use what I do to make my sister feel like she needs to ‘match up’ to me. Even I’m caught up in it, I try to consciously suppress it, but I can’t help but love the feeling that I’m doing something that makes other people think I’m ‘intellectual’. I love knowing all the big fancy words, I love all the privileges that come with being associated with the medical profession.
What would my parents say if I dropped out? What would my friends think? Heck, what would I think? Would I always wonder ‘what if’?

I think it’s too late to drop out of medical school now. I’m too financially and socially invested in it. So I’ll probably end up finishing the degree. I’m doing my BMedSc(Hons) next year though, so it’s very tempting to do that, then just sort of branch off into PhD-land, and use that as a launch-pad away from medical school. But I probably won’t (and if I do, I’d likely do it alongside, rather than instead of, medical school), because the stories I’ve heard about the job market for researchers without medical qualifications sounds pretty horribad.

I’ve been toying with the idea of going down the politics/public-health-at-ministry-level type of route, but honestly I wouldn’t even know where to start. I’m not even sure if I’m interested in it, or it’s just the first thing that came to my head when I started thinking of ‘Things I could do with an MBChB that aren’t ‘being a doctor”. I just don’t think I could bring myself to go off into an entirely unrelated field. You can say all you like about the ‘Non-medical skills’ that a medical degree gives you (and of course, there are plenty of those), but I’d still feel a lot like I’d wasted 7 years if I did.

So right now I’m sort of in purgatory. I don’t really want to keep doing what I’m doing, especially not short-term. But I REALLY don’t want to fail this year, because having to repeat it would absolutely kill me, and I’d probably just go ‘Nope’, and quit on the spot if they told me I had to repeat. So I think the goal for now is to pass third year, and do my Hons year. I reckon next year, being back in my home town with family and friends, and probably at least a little bit stressed out, I’ll be in a better head-space to start making proper decisions about all of this.

Add to all of the above the fact that the current 6th-years, who (nationwide) have a graduating class about half the size of what mine will be, haven’t gotten job offers yet because the system is having difficulty finding them all jobs, because of the over-supply (and back-log from the growing numbers of people unable to get registrar jobs). So imagine how absolutely screwed my year is, not just in terms of getting house officer jobs, but getting onto training programs. It’s easy to say ‘The government will work it out by then, that’s years away!’, but I feel like that’s putting quite a lot of unwarranted faith in the New Zealand government.

Would I have gone into medical school knowing what I know now?
The stupid part is, I probably would. Because I have no idea what else I’d do.