Becoming a doctor in the NHS
Profile of a 'late entry' medical student
ďI left school at 16 with a handful of
qualifications. I worked in retailing and print management but, after a
personal bereavement, I couldnít see myself doing that all my life. So at
21, I started work as a nursing assistant, took the entrance exam, and joined
a nursing diploma course. I qualified three years later, specialising in
nursing for people with learning disabilities.
Working as a nurse I became more and more
interested in the processes of disease and treatment: why particular symptoms
appeared, how did the drugs work on the disorder? By my late twenties Iíd
decided I wanted to be a doctor.
There were difficulties. Iíd just got
married and Joanne was expecting. Weíd decided that when the baby came,
Joanne would be a full-time mum. So I had to carry on earning. We reckoned we
could just manage if I continued to work part-time as a nurse during the
ďThen there was the academic hurdle. I
was accepted on to an access to medicine course in Kingís Lynn
which meant staying away in the week. Itís a course that brings you
up to A-Level speed on sciences for medicine, building on what you have
already learned in your previous career. I donít think there are that many
round the country, and thereís no guarantee it will win you a place in
medical school. I was in a group of twelve and I think half of us got places.
ďIím studying at Leicester where I can
get to from home. I worked as a nurse 30 hours a week for the first two years,
mainly two long night shifts at the weekend. Now Iím sponsored by the RAF,
so Iíve reduced the number of hours I work to 15 or 20 a week, mainly in
daytime or evening shifts. Itís tough. But I donít get so involved in the
hectic social life that medical students seem to have, so I guess I have extra
time and energy as a result. And I think that being a bit older and having
worked full-time for years, you tend to be more disciplined about your
studies. My exam results are good, so Iím hopeful about finishing the course
ď Under the terms of my sponsorship,
Iíll then work for a year as a PRHO before becoming an RAF doctor. The
programme is an excellent training package: Iíll be working in general
hospitals or as a GP on RAF bases. Iíll get the opportunity for
pre-admission A&E work which is an area that really appeals to me. After 6
years I can decide whether to stay with the RAF or go my own way.
ďAs an older student, I donít feel like a fish out of water. Thereís a good mix of people on the course, and Iím happy with the study pressures too: I think you need the intensity of the course to reinforce the knowledge youíre acquiring. And although the holiday periods are shorter than for other students, theyíre a lot longer than Iíve been used to in my previous jobs. I feel like Iím fulfilling a lifeís ambition.Ē
Last updated: 21 February 2003 10:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall
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