Monday, December 05, 2005

Lessons Learnt

Why do you want to become a doctor?

This question has been asked countless times to potential medical students during their pre-admission interview.

Standard answers probably include things like
a) "I want to help people"
b) "I think it is a noble profession".

More realistic reasons would probably include
a) pleasing the parents;
b) thinking that doctors lead glamourous lives (as portrayed on medical TV dramas),& are like the white knights of the days of old, charging in on their gallant steeds to protect patients and slay the disease-dragons
c) wanting to achieve a certain standing in society (doctors have historically been placed on a pedestal by society).

In rare cases, a student truly feels that it is his/her calling to become a physician.

The truth is, yes, you do get to help people -and this is invaluable. What they don't tell you is that you also get a lot of crap in return. And also, that white knight on a steed? Well, sometimes they have to deal with a blunt sword or being able to afford a steed at all; their king may also close off short cuts leading to the patients, & instead decree that they have to take the path that is laden with strewn logs & brambles.

So do I regret the decision I made of becoming a doctor? No. The decision was made according to the circumstances surrounding my situation at that point of time.

And do I think it a waste that I have stopped working as a doctor (for now)? Again, no. I believe I have put in my share of blood, sweat & tears; I do believe that I have saved countless lives, or at least improved the quality of life of many of my patients.

And in return, my experiences & knowledge gained during these years are priceless. I have learnt of the fragility of human life, and the resilience of the human soul to survive seemingly insurmountable setbacks. I have learnt that underneath all that skin, no matter what color it may be, we are all the same. I have learnt not to take life for granted. I have developed "thicker skin" so that ill-meant remarks don't cut as deep (thanks to certain 'senior' doctors during the houseman days). I have learnt to be a (hopefully!) better mother who doesn't panic at the slightest whimper of my child (thanks to postings thru neonatal ICU & pediatric surgery). I have also learnt that this is not a perfect world, and that sometimes, wanting to do right & actually doing it right are two entirely different things altogether. And lastly, I have learnt that politics is inherent in everything you do in this society; no matter how good your intentions are, you still have jump through the right hoops to achieve what you want to achieve - not an easy task if you are one who is not politically-inclined (read: good at brown-nosing).

So to all you potential doctors out there, don't let my rantings & the rantings of other doc blogs discourage you from becoming a physician. Just make sure that you don't go into it with rose-tinted glasses, like some of us did, & you will be fine.


JJ said...

Wow im really encouraged by your post. Indeed i will strive and give it my all to being a Doctor. It is my calling to help the lost, poor needy and bring healing to them. (:

distinguished mediocrity said...

in my most humble opinion, and also from my own recollections of entering medical school (only 5 years ago, but seemingly an eternity past, a different time, a different place), students enter medicine knowing, and yet not knowing - i remember being aware of shit working hours, a lack of respect, difficult patients etc, but it wasn't till i saw it with my own eyes, experienced it with my own body and heart, that the reality of it truly sunk in.

and that, i think, is the problem - you can inform, you wan warn, but you can never realy make them see, until it's more or less too late.

igakunogakusei said...

Interestingly, I was never asked that question at my NUS medical interview (erh. now also 5 years ago. sheesh). They just looked at my application and we chatted about the things I did. It's such a farce to ask a bright-eyed kid why they want to be a doctor. It's probably only good for a laugh.

My glasses were never quite as rose-tinted, as both my parents are doctors. But it was not until I started entering the hospital environment in Clinical School that I gained a better glimpse of reality for myself. My skin's getting thicker already!

aliendoc said...

Igakunogakusei, good for you that you went into it with eyes wide open. I think having parents who are also physicians helps to give you a better picture of what "real life" is like as a doctor.

For the majority who didn't have physician parents, we went in with eyes wide shut...