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A Career In Medicine: Who Should Consider Becoming A Doctor?

A Career In Medicine: Who Should Consider Becoming A Doctor?

Edited By Srividya | Updated on Jun 07, 2023 09:09 AM IST

Dharini was in a bad shape. She had just enrolled in a medical college after two years of hard work to find she did not want to spend a day attending classes in a medical college, she did not want to become a doctor! She was feeling suffocated and wanted to run back and join a regular degree course back home. No, she wasn’t scared or homesick, she was just one of the several lakhs of students who sit for an entrance exam because everyone is doing it! She wanted to prove to the world that she could crack the medical entrance and she did! And now, she needed to commit five to seven years of her life to earning the MBBS degree; she did not want to pursue the course anymore. What was scary was that she did not even know that she did not want to pursue medicine before this moment. She was confused, scared and anxious.

A Career In Medicine: Who Should Consider Becoming A Doctor?
A Career In Medicine: Who Should Consider Becoming A Doctor?

The case of Dharini is the situation that hundreds and thousands of students face everyday in India. If you like Biology and are good academically, everyone tells you that you can become a doctor; soon the voice turns to “you should become a doctor!” and before you know it you have closed all other options in your head, and it has become a prestige issue to get admission into that medical college. But wait! Did you sit down and consider if you have the qualities and skills that make you a good doctor? Did that question even pop in your head once? This article is for all parents and all medical aspirants to reflect and ask themselves the critical question, “What should I consider before taking medicine as a profession?”

Dr Chandra had not visited the hospital in over a year

It was mid-2021, the peak of Covid where all doctors, media and essential services were in full swing but the rest of us were working remotely. Dr Chandra was the head of the gynaecology department in a government college in her town. It had been a year; she was being marked present but had not visited the hospital even once as she was scared of getting infected herself! She was not the only one, there were many like her who chose to take the easy and safe route of staying home rather than risking themselves to the Covid virus at the medical facilities.

Dr Rudra had not visited home in over a week

Dr Rudra was literally staying in the hospital since many days. He had not had the time to go home, meet his family, or even have a peaceful meal in his premises. The patient load in the intensive care unit was very high and there weren’t enough doctors for the number of patients. He was physically and mentally tired, however he felt it was worth it as he was able to attend to patients and alleviate their painful symptoms. Reels of how doctors had spent days and nights uncomfortably in hospitals were doing the rounds in social media. You would have seen the tough and challenging times they and their families were going through. Yes, doctors like Dr. Rudra were revered and respected as they saved lives during the pandemic.

Values of the medical profession

The value that differentiates and helps doctors go through very challenging times is the “value for life and health” over money, comfort, security, and social status. If you see the examples shared above, you will note that Dr. Chandra and Dr. Rudra have very different value systems. Which value do you feel is needed to enter the medical profession? Make a note of it and reflect. Do you have this value in high measure? Are you focused on medicine because you want to save lives or help people heal primarily? Or are you more focused on the social status and prestige it gets you in society? Be very honest and reflect because this is the critical force that will drive you when the going gets tough!

Love for Biology

Are you good at Biology and life sciences? Do you like to learn about health and disease? Are you a keen observer of symptoms, their remedies, and the health of people around you? Think about this aspect very deeply and visualise yourself studying the human body and diseases for many years to come. How does this make you feel? You need to remember the physiology of the human body in detail, the medicines that treat and the biochemical reactions that occur in the body because of the medicines so you can treat accordingly. Try to spend a lot of time reading biology and see how you feel about it.

Physical and Mental Fitness

Yes, this is often overlooked but a doctor needs to have very high levels of medical and physical fitness. So, check your BMI and improve it, enrol in that yoga class if needed, eat healthy and improve your stamina. You will need to be alert and on the job for hours, as you get into morning and night shifts for your internships and resident doctor duties. Meditate, spend time to rest, reflect and inculcate a mental health routine too. Assess your overall fitness before your embark on this career.

Social Skills

Remember that doctor who smiled at you, talked to you, made eye contact, explained the medicines to you and then asked you how you were feeling on follow up? Would you feel better visiting this doctor or one who does the bare minimum to examine, check symptoms and reports and see if you are feeling better? If both were equally competent, who makes a better doctor according to you, the one with good social and communication skills or the one who treats you only as a patient? Social skills are important, and they become very difficult to inculcate in the grind of studying medicine and disease. However, the reason for a doctor’s profession is people, so go on and inculcate a deep love for people and well-being in yourself.

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Problem Solving and Analytical Thinking

As a doctor, you need to solve health and disease related problems that your patients are consulting you for. You need keen observation and listening skills, you need to understand the symptoms they are presenting and help diagnose the root cause of the problem. For this you need to be a good problem solver, you need to be good at both analytical thinking as well as synthesise the information to solve the host of complaints that the patient complains of.

Patience and Grit

The reason you need patience and grit are both to complete your training as well as to treat patients who may have chronic symptoms or diseases. An MBBS degree takes five years and many hours of working and studying. You may need to sacrifice your weekends and vacations to do internships in hospitals and study for tough exams and complete large pages of course work. Yes, a medical degree is difficult to get, and you need to be patient as your friends may graduate in three years and land in lucrative jobs while you are still studying. So, a hard-working temperament and good study and exam taking skills is very helpful in your MBBS journey.

Family Support and Lifestyle

As a doctor in India working at a government hospital you may need to sacrifice lifestyle and luxury items in the first few years of your career as the pay packages are very different between private and government hospitals. However, a government hospital gives you a lot of exposure and experience and you can hone your capabilities as a doctor for the first five to ten years at least. Thereafter you may choose to setup your own private practice or switch to a private hospital. All these efforts and years invested in getting the medical degree need family support. There have been cases of students clearing the medical entrance exam only to drop out of medical college after four years because their parents received a good marriage proposal for their daughter. Now, this sounds crazy in these days and times, however if your family is under the guiding value of settle early and marry early, there is a high risk of them withdrawing support and you will be left without completing your medical degree. Make sure you talk and gain commitment from your parents, partner etc as there will be lifestyle challenges specific to being a doctor in the medical profession.

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