“Because I want to help people, and I like science.”
That is a common refrain; found in personal statements, interviews, and trotted out for querying extended family members the world over whenever we want to explain why we want to do medicine. After a certain number of repetitions it loses all meaning, and serves merely as a way to fend off inquiry. This phenomenon isn’t restricted to just students, most doctors around the foundation/registrar mark have a similar sense of living with a decision long made, and motives long forgotten.
The sense of dissatisfaction among students and doctors is difficult to avoid. Potentially partly a response to growing discontent with senior officials in the Department of Health, a significant portion of my colleagues and tutors have expressed some desire to leave the country or medicine itself. It’s the fashionable thing to express loathing.
However, I’m willing to bet that asking most of these people what they’d prefer to be doing would be met by blank looks. While there’s much to complain about, and much to despair about at length to long suffering friends, it takes a large leap to leave altogether.
Obviously thoughts made at the tender age of 16/17 when penning a personal statement may not remain true forever, but often the sentiments behind them do. With the plans made as a teenager, and carried out through a 5 or 6 year period during a critical time in ones life, it’s remarkable how few people leave. The draw is still there, even after all that time.
I’m not trying to say that people shouldn’t be able to complain about their current condition, but that it’s important to remember why we chose to be here. I recently had a conversation with a consultant about a confounding case, and his interest and drive was easy to see. There are easy routes in medicine, sticking to ones minimal responsibility, and so seeing someone go way beyond the extra mile even 20 years into their journey was fascinating.
Being jaded is easy, being discontented is easy, and being dismissive is easier still, but most of us are here because it’s a passion, it’s our purpose, and we’ve spent a long time getting here and mean to stay. It’s easy to forget why we’ve made the decisions we’ve made, but sometimes it’s really worth it.