Let’s face a fact – you want to know how to become a medical doctor, also called a general practitioner (GP), because you love people; you love working with people and you have a heart for people who are suffering. If you want to find out whether you’re a future doctor, click here.
Although medicine does offer careers for so called “task orientated” personalities, a GP works with people almost all of the time and in the final analysis needs to be a “people’s person”.
What is a medical doctor?
A medical doctor is a person who has completed formal training at an approved medical school, has received a medical qualification at such an institution and has satisfied all the requirements called for by the professional healthcare registration board of country/state they are practicing in.
A general practitioner devotes his practice to assessing and treating general medical ailments. A general practitioner typically practices in a suburban setting and takes care of the health of families living in this area.
The GP diagnoses and treats a large variety of diseases and conditions, and has the option of referring certain conditions to a specialist for further investigation and management.
So you want to know how to become a medical doctor?
If you are in high school it is essential that you excel in the following subjects:
- Science (physics and chemistry)
Additional optional subjects to study:
- A business subject
- Additional language(s) that are spoken in the region where you intend to practice medicine
In most countries, a pre-medical science degree is a requirement when applying to pursue studies at a medical school. Even if it is not a necessity in your country, it is highly recommended that you consider completing a science degree before applying to join a training program at a medical school.
What are the attributes that I need to become a medical doctor?
- A strong desire to become a medical doctor. This is very important. Do not pursue medicine as a career if you are in any measure unsure about your decision.
- Embarking on a career that will require formal studies of 6 years or longer requires high levels of perseverance.
- Love and respect for human beings (patients and their relatives).
- Respect for life.
- A keen interest in the structure and functioning of the human body.
- The ability to work under pressure and within time constraints.
- The ability to work as a member of a wider healthcare team.
- The ability to work for long hours continuously.
- The ability to keep your concentration for extended periods of time.
- You need to like working with your mind and your hands.
- You need to like working with people, love serving people?and mankind in general.
- An enquiring mind – always trying to find out more about interesting subjects.
- Intelligence. If you really struggle with your studies despite daily putting in considerable effort, you may do well to submit yourself for psychological assessment to ascertain if you have the intellectual ability to becoming a doctor.
Don’t worry if you have a tendency toward fainting, nausea, or dislike blood. Over a period of time, you will get used to it without the tendency to react negatively.
Benefits of a medical career:
- Fulfillment. A medical doctor experiences intellectual fulfillment in an environment where people are being helped.
- Flexibility. The opportunity to follow a number of different careers within the general field of medicine. A researcher at university, a successful private practitioner as a GP, a hospital medical doctor, a medical advisor to a healthcare organization or a medical specialist are some of the career options that the field of medicine has to offer.
- Financial security. Medical doctors in most countries worldwide are in the upper 15 percent of earners when compared with other careers and professions.
- The opportunity to serve people. Being a medical doctor allows you to dedicate your life towards serving other people!
- Status and respect. Medical doctors enjoy a high level of status in the communities where they work and live.
- Challenges. Medical doctors are faced with diagnostic and treatment challenges on a daily basis.
- Variety. People, diseases and medical conditions are all interesting variables in the doctor’s life ensuring that a doctor’s life is almost never boring.
- Mobility. Doctors are not tied to their desks and career opportunities are available worldwide.
- Relationships. As a family practitioner, you will be able to build long-term satisfying doctor-patient as well as friendly relationships with a large number of families and individuals within the community that you are serving.
General practitioner doctors have the option to further their studies in a specific field of special interest. This will require an additional number of years studying as an intern at a training institution associated with an academic hospital. It is strongly recommended that you practice as a general practitioner for a number of years before considering pursuing studies towards specializing in one of the specialty fields of medicine/surgery.
Disadvantages of a medical career:
- It requires a long and difficult study period with long and irregular hours of study in addition to practical and clinical sessions.
- Working hours are usually long (including after-hours calls) and this may put strain on marriage/family relationships. Disciplined time management is of utmost importance!
- In some countries, the risk of unreasonable medico-legal claims may exercise enormous psychological stress on a doctor.
- It takes a number of years to build a private practice that will be able to sustain you and your family economically.
- Your personality profile must be able to psychologically deal with the occurrence of complications as well as suffering and death as part your work.
Most doctors, at the end of their practice lifetime, would vouch for the fact that the advantages of a medical career outweigh these disadvantages by far. Medicine offers an individual the prospect of an enormously meaningful life and a hugely satisfying career!
Until next time,
||Dr. Anton Scheepers, BChD, MDent, FFD(SA), MFOS, President of The Apprentice Corporation|