As I was leaving my solitary medical school interview, incidentally rushing to Stamford Bridge to see my beloved Watford FC, I couldn’t help thinking I had blown it. The journey from Leicester to St Pancras wasn’t particularly arduous, but it provided ample opportunity to reflect and dissect my one chance of getting in to medical school.
I had made what I thought was a definite schoolboy error. The clearly weary interviewer, for possibly the 30th time of asking that day asked, ‘What have you read in the New Scientist?’ I replied ‘Well the vCJD (Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) thing has reared its head again!
Perhaps a bit informal for an interview but potentially recoverable. When asked to elaborate further I was unable to. Something, at the time, I thought was a fatally disastrous blow to my not even fledgling medical career.
They then moved on to quizzing me about hypothetical scenarios such as – ‘Should a doctor ever strike?’ I felt like a lamb to the slaughter, thrown in to the lion’s den with minimal careers advice / interview preparation to back me up.
It is only with the benefit of hindsight reflecting back I came to realise the interview actually went well. The decade of experience I have accumulated has taken me full circle, where I am now interviewing potential medical students for both the University of Leicester and University of Nottingham Medical Schools.
As part of my clinical teaching fellow job, Lincoln County Hospital has taken a proactive role with regard to students for medical work experience. Something that is even harder to arrange nowadays. This is a problem. How can we expect 18 year olds make such an important decision without full possession of the facts?
In July 2014 I had the pleasure of looking after 16 A-level students for a week’s work experience at Lincoln. It was interesting to see a window to the past. For one thing I had forgotten, prior to the rigours of medicine, my 18 year old self wouldn’t touch caffeine. It was a real surprise when I offered them all tea and coffee to which the unanimous reply was “Oh! We don’t drink that!” As I removed the pod from my new coffee machine I couldn’t help but think that their caffeine intake would drastically change should they be successful.
From discussing with students I found a lot of medical careers advice that was knocking around a decade ago is still prevalent today. If it was out of date then, given the pace of change, it’s positively ancient now!
The difference being stakes are much greater for potential medical students of today. Faced with exams on both entry and exit to UK medical schools; UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test), BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) and the SJT (Situational Judgement Test), coupled with the prospect of leading a somewhat nomadic existence as a junior doctor.
I’m not knocking Medicine, it is a fantastic vocation and I wouldn’t change it for the world. If truth be told I certainly made a decision without a true idea of what being a doctor entailed. With no UK trained doctors in the family, I was at the mercy of the careers advisors at school.
However medicine is not for everyone. A greater focus needs to be placed on recruiting the best talent to medical schools.
As a profession I think we owe it to those who follow us to attract and welcome those best suited to the role of being a doctor. Rather than standing at the door charging for advice that was passed to us for free.
There are many problems in the NHS currently despite thousands of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals grafting away to make the difference. One solution might be, to literally turn it on its head – attract the ‘best’ whatever that may be as there is still debate amongst educational psychologists.
Let’s put those students through the best possible medical education to equip them with the skills, and knowledge required to thrive as a UK Doctor; to make crucial decisions within a rapidly-changing NHS workforce for continued high quality patient care and safety.
I am fortunate my current post permits me to get involved in such challenges and I’m sure the next decade will be prove interesting.
It’s all very well highlighting problems but solutions no matter how small they initially may be are better!
It gives me great pleasure to announce the formal launch of the WatMed educational (Widening access to Medicine) YouTube channel.
Thanks to sponsorship from PREPARE4FY1 we will shortly be launching a series of mini interviews with an admissions tutor of 24 years experience.
Watch this space!
Dr Kishan Rees
Lincoln / Leicester / London