Having spent several weeks thinking about how I should start this blog, I have opted to kick it off by introducing what this series is all about.
I was invited to start Mind of a Medic by the team at Bank Partners who asked if I would like to anonymously share my experiences of what it’s really like training to become a doctor and treating patients.
As this is my first blog, I thought I would answer some of the most common questions that I get asked. Here it goes.
What does it take to become a doctor?
Medical school is generally 5 to 6 years. In the UK you can start medical school straight after college, whilst in some countries (USA) you have to be a graduate of another degree prior to doing medicine. In the UK, specifically London, it is very common for med students to take a gap year and do another degree, known as an intercalated degree.
This is why when you see many doctors you notice they have several qualifications after their name, we start early! I have three qualifications and medicine will be my fourth.
There are so many different titles for doctors, what do they all mean?
After you complete medical school, you’re given a ‘provisional’ medical license and regarded as a house officer (aka FY1, or junior doctor).
After the 1st year of being a doctor, you then get signed off as being competent and the GMC gives you a full medical licence. This is when you become a senior house officer (aka FY2, junior doctor). The term junior doctor is actually quite misleading. Only the first 2 years are actually regarded as being ‘junior’ (new to the profession) But, as doctors, we are constantly learning and doing exams - we can actually train after medical school for another 6-9 years and still be called a junior doctor. This is why there was such a large uproar a year or so ago - this term doesn’t actually give patients (and the public) the right information about the degree of experience a doctor has.
Many patients think a junior doctor is someone just out of university, but this is not true – most junior doctors are actually very senior and experienced clinicians. They are just doing a degree which can take up to a whopping 13 years to finish!
What is it like being a doctor?
Now we are getting to the fun stuff! I completed my final year in early December. So far I have seen a fair few patients who have left a lasting impression on me.
One particularly memorable one visited my GP practice last month. He was a heroin addict who just wanted to get some bandages for his leg ulcer. He was adamant all he needed was plasters and bandages, so he could take care of it at home. However, as doctors, we always need to see it for ourselves. It’s not because we don’t trust you, but because we want to see how severe it is and assess the best course of action.
For this gentleman, he was very lucky we looked. He had a deep ulcer which was bleeding and badly infected. It turned out he had been using his own pillow case as a bandage for several weeks and alcohol to clean it. By the time he put the bandage back on his leg, I had already called a senior into my room to help get him to a hospital urgently.
Throughout my time as a doctor I have heard and seen countless incredible things. From the confessions of a sex addict to meeting a child genius. As I embark on my final leg of medical school and take the Hippocratic Oath, I hope to share more anecdotes about the experiences I have in this blog.
Currently, I am on night shifts in the hospital. Following doctors around and then returning to my on-site room to revise, sleep and then repeat the process again.
I’m finding this difficult because I am constantly being pulled into different situations but this is the reality of what every doctor experiences on a daily basis. For example, last week, whilst I was working with one of the doctors I follow, we saw a patient on the surgical ward who was complaining about a headache, simple – they needed a stronger dose (which would make sense as they had just got out of surgery).
As we walked to the other ward to grab some coffee, the bleep went off and I suddenly find myself running with the doctor across the hospital as the patient is in cardiac arrest and is seconds away from dying.
When I reached the ward there were already five doctors resuscitating the patient. Long story very short, the patient survived and is fine now.
What they don’t really train us for at medical school is the need to change gear in seconds. We went from seeing patients about headaches, to rushing to a patient with alarms going off and organised shouting everywhere. Yes, ‘organised shouting’. This is a real thing in the medical profession!
I hope you have enjoyed reading my first Mind of a Medic blog. Please let me know what you think about the things I have covered in the comments below.
If you would like to get involved and become one of our Mind of a Medic anonymous bloggers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time,