Medicine is always made out to be such a difficult degree, that only those with a high degree of intelligence can pursue. So after nearly 4 years studying medicine and surgery, how hard is it really?
Before I started my degree in 2012 I thought it was going to be horrendously difficult, with hardly any free time. I didn't really know what to expect. However my first year was really laid-back - I was only in university for about 10 hours each week and the work was just an extension of what I studied in Biology at A-level. We learnt the basic sciences and how each part of the body functioned normally, and our exams were based around this. I think I probably had more work to do than my flatmates that weren't studying medicine, but it was definitely reasonable and I had plenty of free time.
Things changed in my second year, when we started to learn about disease and what happens when processes in the body go wrong. I think second year was the hardest for me as it was such a big step up, and I was really suffering with my depression at the time. There seemed like a huge amount of things to learn, and it was things I had never learnt about before. I was in hospital twice a week and then seemed to spend the rest of my time studying - but I think I probably learnt much more than I needed to to pass exams.
In third year we continued to learn about diseases, but this time also focused on psychiatry, paediatrics, and obstetrics and gynaecology. There was much less new things to learn, although the volume of work was still high, and we were in hospital four days each week. I seemed to have a much better balance between studying and my free time last year though, and enjoyed my third year a lot more than the previous academic year.
This year, my fourth year, has been fairly relaxed for me. The only new things we have really needed to learn have been palliative care and oncology, as well as expanding on the knowledge that we have from the previous three years. My final exams are in about 6 weeks time, but I am approaching them completely differently to how I was in second year - I am much more relaxed and am giving myself enough free time so that I don't burn out by studying too much. I have actually really enjoyed this year, especially the heightened responsibility that we have and being in hospital four days a week.
I don't know whether I have got used to the volume of work, or if my second year was just especially difficult, but I have found myself enjoying each year more and more. I think the hardest part of medicine is probably the sheer amount of knowledge you have to have, but the actual diseases and body processes aren't actually that difficult to get your head around. We are also in university/hospital placement much more often than other degrees, and often have much shorter holidays, but at least we are getting the most out of our £9000!
I also think it's really important to realise that you can have a life outside of medicine - you can go out with your friends, go on holiday, and just take time out to watch Netflix. I think I've learnt that as the years have gone by, and I now have a much better work-life balance. A junior doctor once told me this when I was in my second year - she said to enjoy my time at medical school and spend it relaxing - but I didn't believe her as that year was so stressful. However now I know that she was completely right.
Medicine isn't that hard if you're prepared to work hard and aren't afraid of early mornings (I still haven't quite conquered that bit yet...), and if you have a passion for learning about the human body and getting to know people, then you're halfway there. A good memory also helps too! The hardest part is not letting it take over your life completely, but I think you gradually learn how to have a good work-life balance during the 5 long years at university. It's such a rewarding career and I'm looking forward to what the future brings - hard work or not!
Just because the past didn't turn out like you wanted it to, doesn't mean your future can't be better than you've ever imagined.