What to do if you are doubting studying medicine

Advice & Insight From Medicine Application Specialists

If you find yourself doubting whether or not you want to study medicine, it can feel really unsettling. The decision you make at this point whether to pursue the career will majorly impact your future.

Doubting whether you want to study medicine isn’t something that you should feel ashamed of. Medicine is a challenging career and choosing to study medicine at university should be something you have very carefully thought about. Doubting your choices shows maturity and opens the opportunity to a large personal learning curve as you reflect on your wants and needs.

1. Focus on introspection

Questioning your choices and future career pathway shows curiosity. An application to medicine is challenging – balancing academics, admissions tests, interviews, extra and super curricular activities alongside a social life. At times this may seem overwhelming and doubting what are doing becomes inevitable. But remember, any university application, especially during your final years of school, can be difficult. If you do notice you are doubting your choices try to become comfortable sitting with this idea for a while without writing it off or judging yourself for it. It is undeniably going to be a challenging career. If you are contemplating stepping aside from medicine, you may feel as if you are letting yourself or family down and feel as if you owe it to yourself given all the work you have completed so far. However, the value you have gained from these experiences will be transferable and is never wasted. A difficulty for many is that they feel medicine has already began to define them before they have started studying it. It takes time to reflect on your goals and aims, therefore slowing down helps you to mindfully make these important life decisions.

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2. Consider reasons for and against studying medicine

It can be useful to write a pros and cons list for why you should and shouldn’t study medicine, reminding yourself of the original reasons you wanted to study medicine. Consider your wider values and purpose in life that isn’t medicine.

3. Speak to doctors

The input of a doctor can help you truly understand what the career is all about and gives you the opportunity to address your worries and concerns. The portrayal of the NHS by the media and politicians is likely to make you doubt your decision to work in this sector. Amid these mixed messages it is useful to hear from those who are in the role you will one day occupy.

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4. Research medicine beyond clinical practice

If you are hoping to study medicine the chances are that you are very studious. So, use this as a drive to research the varied career options you would have with a medical degree. The NHS careers website outlines the different potential career avenues medics have. Medical communications, medical education, medical journalism, medical research, prison health service, and the defence medical services are just a few jobs you could discover. During a medicine degree you do not only learn academics but develop transferable skills such as problem-solving, communication and teamworking skills, integral in a variety of industries. It is also important to remember that people’s journeys into medicine are rarely linear. Many people choose to have time away from the career to learn something completely new. Consider having a gap year to give yourself the time and space to reflect on your future steps. In addition, undergraduate medicine isn’t your only option. Just because you study on a different undergraduate degree it doesn’t mean that you cannot be a doctor. Many universities offer 4-year graduate courses.

5. Evaluate the alternative options you have

There are so many alternative career options – some similar and others extremely different to medicine. When making any career based decisions you should ask yourself what subjects you enjoy at school and what have you done well in. Build a list of alternative potential careers, researching what qualifications and skills you would need. There are several useful self-assessment tests and quizzes that you can complete which may broaden your horizons and help you match your skills and interests to other roles. Consider using the Morrisby test online careers guidance service. Utilise the UCAS website to find out more about different options as well as referencing university websites and prospectuses. It is important to develop networking skills meeting professionals outside of healthcare-based careers. Most people, even far into their careers, do not know what they want to be doing in the future. As a career in medicine is very prescriptive you may be trying to precisely map out what route you will take if you enrol in a different course. Remember you only need to decide your next step, whether that be to take some time out of education or beginning an alternative degree. It may be the case that becoming a doctor seems like a destination and a goal to work towards which is naturally reassuring. But even as a doctor you will need to become comfortable with uncertainty. 

6. Speak to others

Asking for help and advice is something that even senior consultants can struggle to do. It’s confusing and overwhelming when everyone has their own viewpoints on what they think you should study. Speaking your worries and concerns out loud to someone else who will actively listen can itself change your views. Vocalising your doubts with someone you trust is a way to hold a mirror up to yourself and occasionally the right thing to do becomes blindingly obvious. Although frustrating, speaking to someone who plays devils advocate may open your eyes to perspectives and ideas you were otherwise oblivious to.

Your parents are likely to be hugely influential in your career decision. Often parents have their child’s best interests at heart but remember you have no obligation to fulfil their wishes.

There will always be some influences who have a strong aversion to the idea of you swapping out of medicine. Listening to their point of view is important but consider whether they may have a biased opinion. Ultimately it is your decision to make; if you are miserable in your career then you, your friends and family and in time your patients will suffer. It is a matter of trusting your own instinct based upon guidance.

What to do if you are doubting studying medicine

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