Become a Doctor & Get the Career You Always Wanted
Are you interested in becoming a doctor? If so, your dream is to work in a profession which is one of the most rewarding and respected of all careers. The capability of helping people who need it the most, and knowing that you are responsible for restoring them to full health, is often cited as a key reason as to why people wish to get involved in the medical profession.
However, doctor training is not an overnight process. It requires great diligence and perseverance over a number of years before you become a fully certified medical professional. If you’re driven to work at it, though, and if you have the mental and interpersonal skills to be a good doctor, then the years of training will prove to have been well worth it for the reward of ultimately succeeding in your long-held ambition of becoming a doctor.
Doctor Training: What’s Involved?Students undergoing doctor training will typically study a variety of modules in different aspects of medicine, including:
- Emergency medicine
- General medicine
- General surgery
In terms of the methodology used in doctor training, it is generally divided into problem-based and lecture-based learning. With lecture-based learning, students will get the opportunity to listen to and learn from leading clinicians and medical academics, with recommended reading for students in between lectures. With problem-based learning, students are divided into small groups (usually of 8-10 people) and encouraged to actively collaborate to determine a solution for a real-life scenario that could easily occur in the field of medicine, so this is seen as a more involved method of leaning where students are required to demonstrate what they have learned.
Courses are generally structured either into clearly defined pre-clinical and clinical phases or in a curriculum where these phases are integrated throughout the course. The pre-clinical/clinical divide is the more traditional format, whereby students would undergo 2-3 years of theoretical learning before entering a clinical course, usually 3 years in length. This method allows students to gain a solid foundation of understanding and knowledge before being placed in a professional healthcare setting. With the integrated format, clinical and non-clinical modules are taught in tandem with each other throughout the course, sometimes with a greater initial emphasis on non-clinical modules and sometimes with a 2:1 ratio of clinical to non-clinical learning. This method tends to ease the transition from a learning environment into a working one and gives students vital hands-on experience from an early stage.
How Many Years to Become a Doctor?
The length of training involved in becoming a doctor will depend on how specialised and advanced a role you wish to achieve.
The first step is to enrol in a medical school, where obtaining a degree usually takes 5 years and acceptance into the course is usually dependent on good A-level grades in chemistry and biology (sometimes mathematics and physics are also taken into account). Alternatively, you can study medicine at graduate level after completing another degree, generally for 4 years and with acceptance depending on a science-related degree of 2.1 classification or higher.
The interview process to gain acceptance to a medical school can be quite challenging in the UK and even if you reach the required grades, there is simply no guarantee that you will get a UK medical course place. However never fear as there is always the option to study medicine in reputable colleges abroad at very good prices.
After a medical student obtains their degree in the UK, they continue to a Foundation Programme (FP) of 2 years’ duration, for which they apply in the final year of their degree. In the second year of the FP, doctors can apply for enrolment in a specialist or GP training programme. The GP training programme lasts for 3 years, while specialist training programmes can last for 5-7 years.
The number of years it takes to become a doctor will vary according to how much training you wish to undertake, although you can realistically expect to spend a decade of your life (and maybe a bit more) studying medicine.
What Makes a Good Doctor?
Dr Tom Milligan and Dr Jill Kelly discusses the most important character traits of being a doctor.
Being a doctor is a role with a massive level of responsibility, one where the decisions you make could prove the difference between life and death for another person. These are some of the traits you will need to exhibit as a medical professional:
- You will be able to decipher unclear or incomplete information to reach a diagnosis.
- You adhere to protocols, but you recognise situations where you have no choice but to abandon protocol for the benefit of the patient.
- You will have the courage to take calculated risks while knowing the distinction between an informed, necessary risk and an action of inexcusable recklessness.
- You keep up to speed with changes in medicine and medical practice.
- You are able to keep patients calm and reassured.
- You genuinely care about your patients’ health while still maintaining enough focus not to be mentally affected by your patients’ pain.
- You gently advise your patients of medical procedures and diagnoses while also having the compassion to listen to and absorb their feelings.
- You treat every single member of your medical team with total respect and inspire confidence in them to work together and perform the job to the best of their ability.
- You are self-assured enough to make critical decisions and give clear direction to your medical team.
- You remain composed under enormous pressure and make quick yet carefully measured decisions.
- You never think you ‘know it all’ and are always willing to add to your knowledge.
- You always remain faithful to your Hippocratic Oath.
- You accept ultimate responsibility for your actions.
Why Become a Doctor?
There’s no doubting that being a doctor is a profession with enormous responsibility and pressure, but it is also one with numerous attractions, and if you work hard enough to follow your passion and qualify as a doctor, you’ll know you made the right decision for a number of reasons:
- There will be numerous opportunities available to you upon graduation, depending on what specific route you wish to pursue.
- You have the potential to save other people’s lives with your actions, an opportunity to make a difference that doesn’t come with any other line of work.
- You have the opportunity to form strong working relationships with fellow doctors and earn enormous respect from members of the public.
- There will always be a need for doctors, especially in some Eastern European countries. Indeed, it is one of the very few professions that is exempt from foreign employment restrictions of EU countries.
- It offers a high level of job stability in that once you find employment as a doctor, you will almost certainly be assured of employment for many years to come.
- The opportunities to gain further knowledge are endless. Indeed, doctors often accrue invaluable knowledge from conversing with one another at conferences, for example.
- A medical qualification earned in one part of the world is generally applicable to and accepted in most other countries, further expanding the opportunities for employment.
Where is the Best Place to Study Medicine?
Rizwaan Latif, a first year medical student, explains his journey from the UK to Bulgaria to study medicine and the step by step application process involved.
It is of course possible to study in the UK to become a doctor, but there are also ample opportunities for you to complete your medical training in a foreign country. The demand for medical school places in the UK is so high that even the highest of exam results will not guarantee you entry. Also, studying abroad can be quite advantageous for several reasons:
- You will have the great experience of living abroad for a period of time. You won’t be going overseas for holiday reasons, but you can still immerse yourself in the culture of the country in which you’ll be living.
- In countries such as Bulgaria and Romania, it is substantially less expensive to study medicine than in the UK. Indeed, a select few medical universities don’t even charge tuition fees.
- Overseas, it can be a lot easier to gain acceptance into a medical school, even with less than top marks.
- In some other countries, you do not need to sit an entrance exam to gain entry to a medical school. This is the case in Bulgaria and Romania.
- It provides you with a fantastic opportunity to learn another language, which is something that almost always makes an impression with recruiters when applying for work.