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You Can Be A Doctor:
Application Guide

Exploring Medicine as a Career

Thinking about studying medicine and becoming a doctor?

Medicine is a rewarding career, but at times it can be extremely challenging. ​Before applying to study medicine at University, it is important to make sure you understand both what medical school will be like, and ultimately what being a doctor will be like. 

Pros and Cons
What makes a good doctor?

It's also really important to think about some of the attributes and qualities that lend themselves to being a good doctor. These are things medical schools will want you to demonstrate in your application - don't worry we'll give you some tips of how to do this later on! 

Key Qualities of a Doctor

  • Strong academically - particularly in science

  • Good communication skills and people skills

  • Teamworking and leadership skills

  • Commitment/tenacity

  • Organisational skills

  • Resilience

  • Desire to learn and teach

What are the pathways to medicine?

Going from high school straight into university isn't the only way to become a doctor - there are lots of alternative routes if things don't work out initially! There are a variety of options, including foundation courses for those who didn't choose to do sciences for standard grades/advanced highers. 

Click here to find out about alternative routes into medicine

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What is it like studying medicine?

Before you become a doctor, you'll need to spend either 5 or 6 years (depending on the university you go​ to) studying! 

It's important to understand that medical school is different from most other courses at university and you know what to expect!​ Watch the video to find out more about life as a medical student in Glasgow. 

Here are some of the challenges of being a medical student:

  1. Learning: As a medical student, you spend the majority of your time in the classroom, absorbing vast amounts of theoretical knowledge. You study various medical disciplines, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, and more.

  2. Clinical Training: While medical students do have clinical rotations and hands-on experiences, they are typically supervised and have limited direct patient responsibility. These experiences are part of the learning process.

  3. Long Hours of Study: You'll put in long hours studying, often including evenings and weekends, to prepare for exams and coursework.

  4. Pressure and Stress: The academic pressure and competition in medical school can be very high. The stress is related to exams, coursework, and the constant need to prove yourself.

  5. Limited Responsibility: You have a limited role in patient care and decision-making, and you typically work under the supervision of residents and attending physicians.

  6. Financial Strain: Medical education can be expensive, and many medical students accumulate significant student debt.

What is it like being a doctor?

Remember your career is something that you'll spend so much of your life doing so it's important to find it engaging and interesting! One advantage of medicine as a career is that there are so many subspecialties to choose from once you become a doctor - from internal (hospital) medicine, to surgery, to psychiatry and lots more. 

Click here to see some video diaries from medical students and doctors at various points in their career.

Some of the unique experiences as well as challenges of being a doctor include: 

  1. Clinical Practice: As a doctor, you transition from learning to practicing medicine. You have more direct patient contact and the responsibility for their care.

  2. Decision-Making: Doctors have the final responsibility for patient care. They diagnose, prescribe treatments, and make critical medical decisions.

  3. Long Hours and Responsibility: Doctors often work long and irregular hours, including overnight shifts. The responsibility for patients' health and well-being can be emotionally and physically demanding.

  4. Continuing Education: Medicine is an ever-evolving field. Doctors must engage in lifelong learning and stay current with the latest medical research and technologies.

  5. Team Leadership: Doctors often lead healthcare teams, coordinating the efforts of nurses, specialists, and other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive patient care.

  6. Legal and Ethical Concerns: Doctors must navigate complex legal and ethical issues in patient care, including patient confidentiality, informed consent, and end-of-life decisions.

  7. Income and Career Progression: Doctors generally earn salaries higher than that of the average population, although at the beginning of your training this may not be the case. They also have the opportunity to specialise, pursue research, or advance to leadership roles within healthcare organizations.

  8. Patient Relationships: Building relationships with patients and their families is a significant part of a doctor's role. It can be both challenging and rewarding.

What happens after medical school?

Although exploring a career in medicine begins during medical school, the journey really begins once you start working. There are so many subspecialties 

In the UK, after successfully graduating from medical school, you'll undergo a period of on-the-job practical training known as the Foundation Programme. This two-year programme allows newly graduated doctors to rotate through various medical specialties and gain a broader understanding of healthcare whilst developing some specialist knowledge. After completing the Foundation Programme, doctors can then decide to pursue further training in a specific specialty training programme (i.e. cardiology, surgery, paediatrics, GP, etc.). These are all set up slightly differently and can vary in duration (from 3 years for general practice, 8 years for surgery), but are designed to train doctors to have in-depth knowledge and expertise in their chosen specialty. 

Following successful completion of specialty training, doctors can apply for consultant positions or general practitioner roles, depending on their chosen path. Consultants are experts in their respective fields and often play a crucial role in leading medical teams, conducting research, and contributing to advancements in healthcare.

In addition to clinical practice, many doctors in the UK engage in ongoing professional development, attending conferences, and participating in research projects to stay abreast of the latest medical advancements. The medical career path in the UK offers a diverse range of opportunities, allowing individuals to specialize in areas that align with their interests and expertise.

The NHS careers website offers further insight into the pathways of the 60 various medical specialties:

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