Thoughts and insights from medical students
complaints, complaints, complaints...
I don’t think I have ever come across a medical student who had not complained about some aspect of their course or teaching experience. There are usually waves of this over the academic year – waxing and waning like a large renal stone – striking the moans and groans chord on the student body. I am guilty as charged for doing this on some occasions, but I wanted to write about a few conclusions I have drawn from over the four years I have had at medical school regarding this.
There is often a climate of resentment by some students who feel they should be handed their learning experiences on a golden platter, that every tiny detail should be offered without them having to break a sweat. This of course does not apply at all to the hardworking, on-the-ball students who don’t mind – and sometimes love – the uphill jog to independence.
So this blog, I guess, is directed at all the complainers – a trait that most medical students have; some chronically flaring up with them, others making an appearance once in a blue moon.
To me, medical school is the beginning of my career. The first year is like the transition from GCSE to A Level - nerve-wracking – but I’m a student of medicine from day one and will be a student in this field up to retirement. There is a mountain load of work and jam-packed timetables accumulating over the years, so much so that one considers any free time a blessing. The transition into medicine can be a smooth one for some or a bumpy ride for others; some eager to choose a speciality on the word “go”, others regretting applying.
Medicine as a course and career is like no other; there is a massive commitment to it from the second the welcome lecture on the first day commences. The course can be shaky at times with admin problems, clinicians turning up late or not at all for teaching, and changes to the way we learn with technology and e-learning paving its way in; sometimes welcomed, sometimes not. But aside from the more plausible complaints, being spoon-fed is not the answer in medicine because otherwise no one would accumulate experiences to assist them in becoming leaders and decision-makers of the future.
That and… we aren’t babies! We are fully fledged young adults who have made a decision (and a commitment) to sit on the rollercoaster ride that is this field.
I believe that the solutions to most complaints are in the students themselves: taking a pro-active approach in medicine from Year 1 is essential and the reward would be evident throughout our careers and especially when we are Consultants and GP Partners – where we will be making decisions on a constant basis. Those proactive, independent learning experiences can shape us into confident and competent physicians of the next generation, like the ones who stick out to us and admire.
These experiences tell us we are independent, mature students of medicine and they give us the oomph to carry this into our patient care.
Over the years, the number one thing I have taken from medical school is to always ask myself: what can I do myself to improve my learning here? If we asked ourselves that in all situations, we’d probably find we would complain less and use the time instead to do what we applied for in the first place: learning to become doctors.