I started med school at the age of 18. I was a sheltered child of an adult. Most people I knew at that age were. It’s not their fault it’s more that we are a society capable of producing legally defined adults who aren’t really emotionally/socially/psychologically capable of living as adults.
And while that in itself is interesting and controversial (and arguably completely wrong…) it’s not what i want to talk about here.
I spent 5 years in med school learning as little as possible, playing a lot of footy, doing a lot of travelling and having a great old time.
I never got a mark above average in 5 years, i never attended a full week after the first week of 1st year.
I spent a lot of time nervously propping up walls in wards and slacking off early without learning anything.
No one ever pulled me aside and told me that that wasn’t OK. No one ever gave me a booted kick in the rear end. I kind of think they should have.
I started work as a doctor having only just turned 23. I loved every minute of it and after my first year I started working my butt off to learn all the things I probably should have known by then.
Working with patients and people, in a place that expected something of you, got it across to me that this shit matters. The job matters. What we do is really important (as what most people do with their life is really important in its own way) and I was only about the maturity level by then to notice it.
I also realised that what we do is a lot of fun, interesting, satisfying, rewarding and full of its own form of humour.
So if you’ve waded through the self-referential narcisstic bit above then i’ll get to the title.
I think medicine should be a graduate entry program.
A few reasons from my own anecdotal observations
- i think graduates make much better doctors (more quickly)
- they bring with them not only the skills and knowledge from whatever they studied before (from art to philosophy to pharmacy) but also the maturity that comes from having to commit another 4/5 years to training.
- I work with students every day and can see that the mature students are leagues ahead compared with the “just finished leaving cert” crowd.
- two of my best mates who I grew up with went back to med-school in their mid-twenties and they’re brilliant already and they’re only getting started…
- i think 5 years is way too long to be in med school, I think 4 years is fine if you run a tight program and have motivated people.
Of course the north americans have been doing this for a while now (perhaps always I don’t know…) and their med school is 4 years in length and you can be out the door of a residency program from graduation in 5 years flat. It takes 9 or 10 years minimum to be fully trained here.
Some big problems
- how the *&^% do we pay for this? will we end up with graduates as heavily debted as the americans do?
- the time commitment, by the time it seems people are mature enough to take this seriously they’re also mature enough to have a real life with real responsibilities and partners and kiddies and all that
This is of course a deeply complicated and nuanced issue and would suffer from so many issues I couldn’t hope to bring out here