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The Medical Hamsterwheel

Choosing a career of medicine is very much like running in a hamster wheel, except it’s not that easy to get off.

The process of training to become a doctor is quite long. Usually 4 years in an undergraduate degree, 4 years of medical school, 2 to 5 years of residency, a few more years of fellowship. By the time you’re done, your average age of finishing is in the mid-thirties.

There are always hoops to jump through, people to impress and always something to learn. The learning never stops. And often times, new discoveries make what you learned obsolete.

It can be tiring, especially if you’re stuck in a rotation you don’t particularly enjoy or if you end up working with some difficult colleagues. If you end up doing research, there’s always the pressure to publish, publish or perish. But in the end, I think if you enjoy doing medicine, interacting with patients, learning how to treat illnesses, it’s rewarding.

So if you’re at a point, like high school or undergrad, where you’re thinking this might be something you would want to do, give it a long serious thought. Because once you start down this path, you’ll be busy. You’ll always be working towards that next step. Even if you’re done all your training, you’ll always need to update your skills and knowledge. There’s often no end point, just the state of being in motion. And there’s no easy way to stop or get off too. So don’t feel rushed to make a quick decision. Because the time you spend doing things outside medicine will make you a more complete person. After all, another loop in the hamster wheel won’t really be anything new or broaden your horizons.

A post inspired after reflecting on how much “running” around to “do things” you do in medical school. Looking ahead towards residency, I know the wheel will just keep spinning faster.



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