So you’re going into your final year of schooling, and you’re super duper set on being a doctor. There are lots of ways you can keep hold of medicine as a big picture throughout this long and sometimes arduous year. By putting some of these points into action now, you will increase your chances of getting straight into med, pump up your motivation over the year, and be an awesome doctor in the future!
· People – get amongst them! Medicine is all about the people. In your career you will interact with others from diverse backgrounds, and it is crucial that you are able to relate to them. Wherever you can, get involved and try to connect with the full range of people around you. See your part time job, your volunteer work or your sporting team as a chance to learn people’s stories and to appreciate their differences. Work on your emotional intelligence: your ability to understand, appreciate and to act on emotions, in real life situations! It will make you a better doctor, and a better friend. Not to mention increase your chances of performing well in the Understanding People construct of UMAT, as well as interviews.
· Find mentors and role models anywhere, and everywhere. You might identify role models online, in magazines, in books or in person. Recognise what it is about them that inspires you. How can you implement these qualities on your journey towards medicine? Draw inspiration from everywhere. Write or speak to these people, wherever you can! Doctors in the community around you really want to help you out, so ask about them about their tips for the future, or if you could shadow them for some work experience. You've got nothing to lose!
· Secure some volunteer or paid work in a healthcare setting. This will help you to learn all about your future industry, it will give you something practical to do during a very un-medical year twelve that can be hard to push through, and it will give you a leg up in an interview! Check out the volunteering opportunities at your local hospital – it is often easiest to call their volunteering offices directly (keep trying if the first one falls through!); apply for an Assistant in Nursing (AIN) position, which requires no qualifications and gets you straight into a hospital or other healthcare facility; or get a first aid certificate and help out the community as a volunteer for St John (http://stjohn.org.au/volunteers).
· Keep up to date with current affairs – especially in relation to health. As a doctor, it is important to recognise key and current issues in the media as these will be at the forefront of your patients’ minds. Get into the habit of staying up to date now, and think critically about what you are reading. If an issue in the media strikes you, look further into it and see if you can examine the evidence and get both sides of the story. Practice making opinions based on the reading you are conducting, not blindly according to what is being presented in the press. Critical thinking skills are important to success in the Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving construct of UMAT. This is a great skill to obtain early, and having some informed knowledge about current Australian health-care issues will also be seriously helpful in an interview! (In addition to listening to the news, you could try out these resources - http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/healthreport/ http://www.australiandoctor.com.au/home http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/previous%20news )
· Bond with other hopeful medics, wherever you find them. These peers present such valuable support, which will be crucial in your final year of schooling. It can get pretty lonely if you are one of the only people in a group of friends who is obsessed with being a doctor. In my final year of schooling I found it so helpful to band together with others like me, with whom I could rant on for hours about the UMAT, the various medical schools or my hopes for the future. Don’t get me wrong, it is super important to connect with and reach out to a range of people during year twelve, but it is particularly nice to have a few who really understand the path you are on. Organise UMAT or interview study sessions with your fellow aspiring doctors: being accountable for your revision time is so helpful for staying on track, and any collaborative points raised are of incredible value. Keep connections going with those who you, say, meet at a science conference, an open day, or a MedEntry workshop! This support is also great in the form of online communities - try Med Entryforums, or 'Med Students Online' (http://medstudentsonline.com.au/forum/)
· Know yourself! Start sussing out your motivation for medicine. Get to know your strengths and weaknesses, and start putting strategies in place to make the most of these strengths and improve upon your weaknesses. As a doctor, you need to be able to reassess your personal attributes and make changes where necessary; so why not start now! Understand your values: what do you care about, what drives you? Start to form some of an answer to the question… who are you? It sounds like an impossible task, but it can be done simply and gradually. Techniques like starting a journal will help! Knowing yourself will enable you to stay in touch with who you truly are during a year that demands you to be a lot of things. It will also help you in your interview.
· Keep a balance. Don't sacrifice the awesome things you are already into for the sake of year twelve. Keeping a balance is about learning to say no to some things, learning how to find the time for others, and being able to compromise responsibly where required. It is so important to stay in touch with the ‘pie of life’, and as a well rounded person you will be in a better position to help people as a doctor. For more information, check out my other blog ‘Keeping the balance.’
There’s quite a lot there, and you definitely don’t have to do it all, but these points will truly come in handy if you’re ever feeling a bit ‘stuck’. It can be hard to see the end during your final year of high school, so it is helpful to remind yourself about why you are doing it all. All the best, and remember, most importantly, to have fun!