Sunday, 17 May 2015

Why You Should Think Twice Before Studying Medicine

Most things I have written about up to now are usually shallow discussions and my travelling timeline.


I have always tried to make being a medical student not such an important aspect, but "just another thing" in my life, simply because I don't want it to define my identity.

Many people are aware of my plan of exiting after 10 years or so of working in the medical field. Many have asked why study medicine in the first place. My answer is because since I turn 17, I feel like an adult and I feel the need to be financially independent from my parents. I don't want them to pay a single penny for my daily living. So I did my A-levels with partial scholarship, then went on to medicine after I was offered a full scholarship. Just to save money.

Today, sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I decided to spend my parents' money on education. I would definitely have chosen another career path.

As we know, it takes usually 5 years to study medicine. It is not uncommon to require 6 years. For many of us youngsters, 5 years could be dreadfully long to be stuck in academics. So are these 5 years really worth it?

Today I am going to blog about my life as a medical student to show people what it really is like to study medicine, or rather, to be a good doctor.

1. You DON'T have to be a top student to do it.

30 years ago, only the ONE top student from town gets to enter medical school and became the pride of the state. Most of them were of course guaranteed a scholarship in public universities.

Today, they called the phenomenon the "AirAsia Syndrome". It is from "now everybody can fly" to "now everybody can be a doctor". Read here for the full article.

I wasn't exactly a top student in school. I was quite good. Never too bad, but never the best either.

Today, you just need an average brain to memorise everything on time to do medicine. You may also need to have enough money, or let your parents take a loan from the bank to pay for your RM400,000 tuition fee.

But why worry when even average students can get JPA?? Just take the scholarship and be tied for 10 years it will be alright hahahaha fml wtf there goes the youthful 10 years of my life fml max.

On a side note, never be a doctor just because your parents want you too wtf.

2. Your passion probably won't take you too far

I remember those days when we all go for medical interviews and got asked why choose medicine, we always said, "Because I want to help people and contribute to the society."

I know la hahahah super cliche right which is pretty standard and gets you through every single time lol wtf.

If your passion can take you far enough, that would be really great. But when you enter the housemanship or compulsary services, it's not up to you whether you want to help or treat people, all you REALLY do is actually filling up paperworks and taking some blood from 6am-12pm. Then you go home and sleep at 1am and come back again at 6am. Imagine doing this for 2 years without rest.

Besides, there are really many other ways to help people and contribute to the society. You can be an entreprenuer, earn some good amount of money, and donate directly to flood victims. I believe that they need more money for bread and butters than doctors when there is no enough water, food or medical supplies.

3. People stigmatise your mistakes.

If you're an accountant and write 5000 instead of 50000, you probably get scolded by your boss for a day and get to correct your fault and make it up. Worse still, you may be fired. But you can always look for a new place to work at.

But it's totally different for doctors. I have met housemen who had been working for 28 hours without resting. He wasn't even an exception. With sleep deprivation like this, we are bound to make mistakes. We probably write UTI (urinary tract infection) with the R missing instead of URTI (upper respiratory tract infection). We probably write 0.5 mg instead of 0.05 mg of drugs. But small mistakes like these are going to KILL SOMEONE. Someone will die just because of the small mistakes you made, which is due to the faulty healthcare system, driving you sleepless.

But nobody will remember that you couldn't sleep. Everybody will remember that you KILLED a patient. Then there comes lawsuit. If you lose, you cannot be a doctor anymore. Then what are you going to do??? You don't know about balancing an account, you don't know about social media management, you don't know about chemical R&D. Who do you think is going to hire you?

You only option would probably be a waiter in McDonalds, which wouldn't be too bad if you like their burgers LOLOL.

4. Being a doctor is not so much of a glory.

Seriously. It's all about the paperworks.
5 .You can't be filthy rich. 

Graduates from other field first earned probably about 2.5k/month. But if they are hardworking and smart enough within 2 years it can go to 6k. When with the bonuses you get every year, your average salary goes to about 7k/month. And then you get to make contacts with people if you're interested in business. There, money will never stop rolling in then.

A houseman earns about RM4k per month. Even then this is the salary you get after working blood and sweats. Your salary has little increase for 5-10 years. So when your friends are buying their 2nd or 3rd car, you're most probably still struggling to pay rent.

You live a comfortable life. But you may never be able to afford a lamborghini. You probably get to be rich enough only when you're 60.

6. You have NO TIME for yourself.

Although still in hospital postings, I already find it extremely hard to take a day off just to renew my passport. Even as a medical student, you're allowed to take leave only when you present an medical cert (to justify that you're sick). Medical schools are usually quite strict about absence compared to other faculties. This is simply due to the fact that you can't take leave without proper reason when you're a doctor.

During your compulsory practice, your free time is usually spent eating, drinking, pooping and sleeping. You probably won't even have time to play angry bird and tetris on your phone. I have met a houseman who told me that he couldn't attend his grandmother's funeral just because he had to work. Not because he had no transport from overseas, not because he was feeling sick, but because he had to WORK.

Imagine one day when your mum called you to come and see her for one last time, you say you can't come because you had to work.

Just to add on, it is not uncommon for housemen to quit before being qualified as a doctor. For example, read here for the full article.

7. You only have ONE career choice. And after today, you would most likely go jobless.

Because nobody needs doctors but government. Oil companies don't. Entertainment industries don't. Marketing field don't. Only hospitals need doctors. And in Malaysia, doctors can only be trained in public hospitals.

However because of the drop in minimum requirement to study medicine, there's just WAY TOO MANY medical graduates nowadays. Most hospitals in urban areas are at their maximum capacity of taking in housemen already.

Here's an article about government stopping to create posts for civil servants.

8. You must NEVER get emotionally close to your patients, which is tough.

I have my fair share of such experience too. I naturally like the feeling of getting emotionally close to people. It's hard to maintain superficial relationship with a person when he/she needs you very much.

I met a prisoner prison who was under immigration lockup due to an overdue visa. She was abused and treated inhumanely in prison. She told me dirty secrets about her encounter and begged me for help. Even in hospital, she wasn't treated right. But I can't help her. And I felt helpless because she felt helpless. One day, she left for a court hearing and I still have no idea what happened.

Because a hospital is huge and there are so many patients, sometimes some patients are not treated the way they need to be. Sometimes they are in great pain but nobody does anything. Sometimes you think that they are diagnosed wrongly but it's really hard to go to the doctors and tell them in the face that they have been wrong with what they thought it was.

All these get harder when you feel too deeply for your patient. Their pain becomes yours.

9. You never truly leave studies.

After your compulsory services, you earn your qualification as a doctor and you are free to leave the civil service. But with the overwhelming number of private clinics out there, nowadays, we don't really stand a chance surviving the competition. So many doctors stay with civil service.

But you're nothing if you don't continue your studies in at least a specialty. So you study, do masters and take some professional papers. Then you would still feel like a nobody so you study somemore.

The studying is probably gonna take another 20 years of my life. By the time I am satisfied with the qualifications I have, I already have a dusty old uterus and I can't give birth without risking my life. I don't know what I would do.

10. You have to suck up and please people.

I have met terrible doctors who are seriously stupid and rude. Frankly, when I meet such people in the society, like people who cut queue and smoke at inappropriate places, most of the times I just tell them off. But in the hospital, when I meet such doctors, I realise that I just leave silently without interfering at all.

It's the nature of the healthcare system. Housemen try to please nurses and medical officers. MOs try to please the specialists. Specialists try to please the consultant. All done to be signed for recommendation for further studies or other reasons.

Sounds sucky, being a doctor, doesn't it?

But if you are very passionate and you PERSEVERE, you would enjoy and you can be a great doctor! :)

ALL housemen that I have met told me that the first 2 years of their compulsory services are the golden crap of their life. They can't sleep can't poop can't eat without thinking about catching up with time. But as life goes on, it gets easier and easier. Once housemenship is over, doctors tend to stay working in hospitals.

And of course, remember to care and love all your patients sincerely. You may not have the time for every single one of them, but do take some time out everyday to see and talk to a patient about their lives. You will be surprised by how much they tell you, and how interesting and inspiring everyone's life can be.

Keep in mind that everybody's life and experiences are extremely valuable.

Signing off.

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