Medical Matters: Introduction

So pals, I’ve had this wonderful idea to do something for my non-medical friends about what medical school entails. I think there’s this preconception that in order to be a doctor you have to be the smartest cookie that ever existed and spend all your time walking round muttering the names of various bones under your breath (Hey guys! The leg bone’s connected to the…. BODY BONE!), but that’s pretty much untrue. So here I am, several glasses of wine to the good, and I’ve come up with this marvellous concept where I’m going to bang on about medical school to non-healthcare folk. It’ll be EXTREMELY exciting, so bear with me.

I’m not saying that to be a doctor or other healthcare professional you don’t have to be strong academically. There are a metric fuck-tonne of exams to be passed, not only at university but annoyingly for probably the next five or six years of your career after qualification. Exams that I will inevitably pay hundreds of pounds to sit FOR THE PURE PLEASURE OF DOING SO, and because I will not be able to advance to the next stage of my career without being able to prove that I’ve passed them. Being good at exams and pencil-wielding under duress is obviously important, not just for the written ones but also for the practical ones, called OSCEs, that involve lots of flashing lights and actors and are tremendously exciting if you like that sort of thing, and heart-arrestingly tense if you don’t (I adore them and all their bleeping sounds and drama, but alas I am one of those unfortunate people who only really shines when everything else is falling down around their ears). There are so, so many things to remember along the way that of course a  good memory is essential, but one of the big reasons that the grade requirements are so high to get onto a medical course is because the demand itself is also high, and this helps to pare down the applicants a bit. Once you’re there however, just being a clever sausage will not see you through, because you realise that actually, healthcare is mostly about communicating, the mystery of diagnosis and the selection of appropriate treatment and less about (to me) boring things like SCIENCE and ELECTRONS and STUFF ON THINGS (I’m not really a traditional academic, I wonder if this comes across at all).

So I propose a small series of posts, where I bang on about some of the things we learn at medical school and why it’s important; how sometimes being a doctor is like being a kick-ass Miss Marple, and how sometimes it is quietly mundane, and people say ‘STAT’ on disappointingly few occasions. I can’t promise that I won’t devise a whole post on whether scrubs are nearly always blue because this is the most universally flattering colour but I do want to talk a bit about what it’s really like to train to be a doctor in an age where we often seek medical advice from the internet before we’d think of setting foot in a surgery. This could be a great idea, equally it could be terrible, but I’m sure you’ll let me know either way.

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