Conclusion

5 years worth of hoops jumped through correctly, each at the precise height, angle and speed required by the medical school. Final OSCEs and written examinations completed. Now it was just a question of waiting for results for the final time and despite going through this every year for the past 4 years the waiting period did not get easier.

The deaneries (hospitals we were allocated to for our first jobs) were already tempting fate by beginning correspondence with: “Dear Doctor…” Talk about counting chickens before any eggs had hatched. We weren’t doctors yet and I certainly didn’t want to use that title until I’d definitely passed. I’m not normally superstitious and definitely don’t have a pair of lucky red exam pants but whilst waiting for results, I didn’t want to jinx the results.

I know a consultant surgeon who wears a particular surgical cap for every procedure. The one time he forgot, he used a disposable one but the procedure didn’t go well. Now he ensures he is always wearing this one surgical cap. Doctors are evidence based. How can a cap affect surgical outcomes? Superstition seems to thread its skinny fingers into any tiny cracks and pries them open.

Results day eventually came and we found out the usual way by logging on with our candidate numbers. On seeing the notification, my hands wouldn’t move at the speed of my brain and it took forever to physically click on the link.

‘Control Copy’ candidate number,’ Control Paste’. Double, triple and quadruple check. Each time it still said: “Written Examinations: Pass, OSCEs: Pass” !!!

graduation-995042_1280

*       *       *

Last week I became a Foundation Year 1 (F1) doctor! We had a few days of induction and shadowing the outgoing F1 doctors. They moved to their F2 jobs and we stepped into their quite large and well-worn shoes with sudden responsibilities whilst the list of jobs generated by ward rounds seemed to keep growing and that dreaded bleep would come alive at the worst moments. Supposedly we will get quicker but we survived week 1 and the nurses were amazing! Thank you nurses.

Conclusion

Right now I still find it hard to believe I’m doing this. It wasn’t until recently when it sank in that actually I had become a doctor – and I nearly had a wobbly emotional moment.

As an F1, my job is mostly routine, lots of paperwork, organising and ensuring all patients are seen on ward rounds (you’d be surprised how easy a patient could be missed, especially outliers – those patients on other wards but who are still your responsibility), prescribing: fluids; analgesia; anti-emetics; routine meds and completing the dreaded administrative paperwork required to discharge patients. All straightforward but there is so much of it with constant interruptions from nurses chasing you on tasks.

There have also been times when I’ve been asked to see unwell patients or those in pain and I’ve already been able to make a difference. Once, I was stopped in the corridor, “Excuse me……” expecting to be asked directions, I looked up but recognised her as the wife of a patient I had seen during the weekend shift. She said: “I don’t know your name but I wanted to say thank you for explaining everything and being there for my husband. I’ve told all the staff on the ward about you too…”  Another time, a man shouted my name and then thanked me for placing a catheter which relieved his urinary retention. I didn’t recognise him in his non-hospital clothes but he looked so well.

On the negative side, if money is important to you there are easier ways to earn a similar salary and if you’re quitting an existing job you might never recoup earnings lost whilst studying. Needless to say, don’t do it for money.

Having little control over your quality of life outside of work, missing weddings and important family or friends’ events and not being able to see your own family in sociable hours are sacrifices to come.

someone not only moved the goalposts but at the same time smeared a little bit of Type 6 all over them too

Finally, practically all clinical staff are concerned about the future of the NHS which is undergoing transition. It feels like things are in a bit of a mess and there are still huge uncertainties with junior doctor contracts. I’m ecstatic to have qualified but the ongoing politics have tarnished that feeling of achievement. It feels as though whilst we had our heads down working hard, someone not only moved the goalposts but at the same time smeared a little bit of Type 6 over them too. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.

In retrospect would I do it again? If I knew it would have been so challenging with so much life disruption I’d think twice, but ultimately still have done it. I think most medical students and applicants have a special kind of stubborn blind (or crystal clear?) determination in terms of achieving objectives. I’ve never met a group with such a high level of motivation. If I could go back in time to warn my old self about the road ahead, I don’t think“medical school applicant” me would have listened.

This will probably be the last post. I thought a blog about becoming a medical student and doctor later in life would be useful and interesting for others thinking about doing the same. Apart from the stakes being higher with age, different worries in life and being mistaken for a consultant all the time, the majority of my experiences were probably the same as anyone else’s regardless of age. What it does show is that it can be achieved whatever your age.

It was an extraordinary and privileged experience. However there is really nothing extraordinary about me. If you’re motivated enough you’ll get into and graduate from medical school. What was difficult was doing it extremely well without it being totally disruptive to ordinary life. But if you choose this pathway you should know full well that you (and your family) will not have an ordinary life.

Thank you for visiting and hearing my story and thank you also to all those I’ve met along the way especially my family and especially those superhero patients, doctors, nurses and classmates without whom I would have really struggled.

If you’re on this path already then best of luck to you. When it gets tough remember that if I can do it, you definitely can too.

Yours sincerely

Dr MSL

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12 thoughts on “Conclusion

  1. Hearty congratulations to you Dr MSL. I’ve watched your journey with interested. Well done and enjoy saving lives.

  2. Congratulations Doctor!!! And a massive thank you for sharing…I have been following you for sometime too… I am 40 and the same journey you started 5 years ago starts for me this October…

    All the best!

    1. Thank you Africa Bocos! 40 is young! I’m so excited for you starting the same journey, please step back to enjoy it every once in a while and don’t neglect friends and family. Despite the hard work and stress it seems to pass by in an instant. I wish you all the best of luck.

  3. Congratulations!! What a relief it must be and well deserved – while also following your journey I’ve also made it to medical school at the age of 36 starting this September 🙂 I can’t wait and your blog has been a lovely reference of how it can all be done – thank you for all your posts! All the best in the future (I would love it if you could keep up the blog / make a new one for your future path ahead it’s so nice to feel “not alone”) 🙂 x x x

    1. Thank you! I am honestly so relieved yes! Congratulations into getting into medical school which I felt was one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. You’re definitely not alone, when I started this blog I felt I was in a tiny minority (and we are) but there seems to be plenty of mature medical students out there and you can always contact me here! All the best of luck to you on your new journey.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your journey… and congratulations! You should feel immensely proud of everything you’ve done and have achieved. I’ve been inspired with every post I’ve read amd wish you the very best for the chapters ahead.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have just turned 40 and have an opportunity to start studying medicine next year January. The decision is huge for me. Any advice you are willing to share?

    1. Hi Heinrich! Congratulations on the opportunity! It is definitely a huge decision as you say and it is not the right thing for everyone. It depends on your circumstances but your finances, personal life and even your ego may take a beating. To get a better idea about what it will be like I would try to talk to as many other latecomers to medicine as possible and even try to shadow some mature medical students and junior doctors who entered medicine later in life. Are there any particular areas in which you need advice on?

      1. Thank you for taking the time to reply, I know that you have actually concluded your blog. Your comments are spot on, I am currently in a well paying job, and have a wife with two very small children. I battle to justify my seemingly selfish decision to give up this apparent stability for my dream, and take them out of their comfort zone as well. How did you reach the decision to take this leap knowing that you are possibly leaving some of this stability behind.

        Just a few notes of interest: I am writing to you from South Africa, as mention already I just turned 40. I have a PhD in physiology and have a chance to enter one of the best local universities through their 4 year graduate entry medical programme.

        Thanks again for your time.
        Heinrich

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