The Finish Line: On the race that is medical school and where we go wrong

By Erin Stewart

From the moment we enter into medical school, we have entered a race. We are constantly achieving remarkable things, but do we ever really stop and appreciate them before the next stage of the race begins again? Where is there time to slow down and appreciate all we have achieved? Entry into medical school, exam results, fun clinical placements, an internship spot..?

As a final year medical student, we are currently awaiting/receiving internship interview offers and, soon, our internship offers themselves. While this is a very nerve racking and exciting time, it is another step in the road of an ever-changing journey. Throughout medical school we are always awaiting something. We await exam results, clinical placements, the exciting changing of the new academic year. All with the end game of finishing medical school and getting out into the hospital system as a ‘real doctor’.

However, when you do near that end it becomes apparent that the race has not ended — it’s only just begun. By handing out internship offers in July, you inevitably look towards finishing the final year of medical school and moving onto internship. But with all that haste, we are not focusing on the great experiences and challenges we are faced with in the final half of fifth year and instead see it as another hurdle to overcome before moving onto the next challenge.

It would be great to slow down and enjoy the ride. This ride will last a lifetime, so why are we rushing? As a cohort, medical students are driven, high achieving students who are always looking for ways to better themselves, always striving for the next challenge and the next step. It is also a consequence of the system in which we are based. Not only in medical school do we take each step year by year, as a working doctor life goes year by year as well (sometimes in six monthly blocks) and you are again moving onto the next stage of your career. Medicine itself has constructed a race-like system for its medical students and doctors alike.

The race is never ending. Whether you have just finished the first six months of medical school or you are nervously awaiting internship offers, we are all in the same boat. We all have a journey which will most likely take us our lifetime to complete.

I wish there was less of a rush. I wish I spent time in the first years of medical school listening to those interesting lectures that wouldn’t come up on the exam. I wish I didn’t research physician training pathways in third year and instead used that time to sit and listen to the elderly patient talk about his family. I wish I didn’t listen to the senior consultant who said that you needed to publish two research papers before the end of third year.

Just enjoy your time, no matter the year level. No matter how fast you race onto the next challenge, there will be another challenge waiting behind the corner. So what are we rushing for? Enjoy the experiences in front of you right now.

Featured image by Krzysztof Mizera at Wikimedia Commons.

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