Although it is no secret that medical school is extremely demanding, the vast majority of people fail to appreciate the extent to which this notion stretches. In other words, even though everyone knows that becoming a doctor is difficult, those without first-hand experience will never be able to form a truly accurate opinion. Only the individuals (and their families/loved ones/supports) who have overcome the adversity that the field of medicine brings can fully appreciate the intestinal fortitude it takes. So, what are some of the most common challenges that arise for ambitious people who decide to pursue a career in one of the most rigorous industries on the planet?
Difficulty Maintaining a Social Life
According to pharmacy manager and business owner Lindsay Richels, who is also a third-year medical student, balancing social responsibilities with medical school is borderline impossible. The reason being is that the coursework is so complex and lengthy that the students often need to dedicate every single hour of every day to their learning. Because of this, anything that is not in a direct relationship with prolonging students’ medical school careers will fall down on the list of priorities. And rightly so.
After all, going to med school is one of the few excuses that are perfectly valid when making an argument for a non-existent social life. Nevertheless, many students struggle with this and unfortunately wrestle with unrelenting guilt, guilt for not studying if you are spending time with your friends or family and guilt for missing another social or family function because you are studying. Students often struggle to adapt to these new priorities and overextend themselves out of a sense of responsibility to their friends and family.
Nonstop Learning and Memorization
Besides having to juggle social responsibilities and coursework, medical school pushes one to spend a seemingly limitless number of hours memorizing important concepts. The downside to that approach is the “burnout” effect. For those unfamiliar, this is what happens when one loses motivation and has absolutely no incentive to accomplish his or her goals. Given that an average medical school career takes no less than a decade and often approximately 14 years, a few burnouts are very likely to happen.
Getting a Residency
For most students, learning the material and passing the course load is the underlying point of higher education. In medicine, however, the purpose is to get new graduates into a residency program and ultimately licensed to practice medicine in their area of training. At first glance, this seems like a relatively easy straightforward process, as one should already possess the necessary knowledge. Well, in reality, Lindsay Richels reminds people that getting a residency spot in Canada is becoming more and more challenging and is a continuous looming stressor throughout medical school.
Staying the Course
Life happens during the many years of medical school. Some people start families, have responsibilities that require them to spend time away from the program or even get sick themselves. Unfortunately, this causes a delay in one’s academic career and their graduation date being delayed. This then brings on financial stressors and additional debt. This can often further compound the effects of burnout and cause students to be the second guess of their choice of career.
Obviously, creating a list of difficulties that present themselves in medical school absent a clear depiction of monetary issues that also arise would be inaccurate. After all, it is not uncommon for prospective doctors to spend as much as CAD 400,000 on their education. Moreover, that amount tends to be the average depicted on the low-end. The true figure is a bit closer to the $500,000 mark. What does this mean for medical students? Well, it clearly shows that they will be subjected to a lot of student debt once they finally get their licenses to practice medicine. Thus, it may be several years of very hard work until one is able to pay back their loans and begin living a more financially secure lifestyle that many doctors enjoy later in their career.