The ‘lightbulb’ moment

If it wasn’t for Year 3 of my degree, a placement training year, I would never have gotten into Medicine, and I’m not being dramatic when I say that. I chose to undertake a placement year in an NHS Foundation Trust hospital within the Pathology laboratory. As a Medical Laboratory Assistant, I was able to familiarise myself with a wide spectrum of clinical conditions and their pathological patterns, as well as building strong professional relationships within the multi-disciplinary team. This gave me a fresh perspective on the levels of communication, initiative and co-operation required to deliver personalised care for each patient.

Before I carry on, I just want to thank the thousands of unsung heroes across the NHS who form the scaffold that hold our hospitals together. Your mind may first race to nurses and midwives, which of course are the angels of the NHS, but I’m talking about the biomedical scientists, the porters, the couriers, the phlebotomists, the radiologists – without these people patient care would be severely hindered!

Anyways, as the days of my placement year went by, I started to realise that my mindset was functioning very differently to that of a Biomedical Scientist – I found myself asking numerous questions to the doctors who were dropping off bloods, wanted to know the outcomes of the blood results we were churning out, wanted to know which treatment regime the patients were going to be put on, wanted to chat to them about how they were feeling… I wanted to be on the other side of the laboratory hatch. That’s not to demean any of the laboratory staff, their extensive knowledge and ability to work under serious pressure is remarkable, I mean, our lab alone churns out at least 1000 blood results a day and it’s not even that big a hospital!

Thirsty for more, I actively pursued more opportunities within the hospital, including a course in Phlebotomy. Each discipline enriched me with valuable insight, whether it was the refined focus and physical stamina needed during surgery, the methodical yet sensitive approach taken in Oncology, or the magnificence behind bio-technology in Radiology. Although diverse, these disciplines were unified by the compassionate, reassuring approach taken towards patients and their families: demonstrating the depth of doctor-patient relationships. And just like that, I found myself falling in love with Medicine again – I caught the feels ;).

I had a huge decision to make. The memories of my first round of applications came flooding back to me and the fear kicked in again – could I deal with a second round of rejections? This time round though, I felt as though I was a completely different person and I’ll tell you why. A) I was mature and B) I was more spiritual (will touch on this in a post of its own)

Aged 20, I was far more put together than I was aged 17. I knew how to deal with complicated personalities, I knew how to manage my time, I knew how to think realistically, and perhaps most importantly I wasn’t a crazy raging hormonal teenager. When I applied to Medicine the first time round, I was so obsessed with the idea that I told absolutely everyone I knew I was applying, there wasn’t a single soul who didn’t know I was going for it. And that almost added an unnecessary pressure and subsequent humiliation when I didn’t get in. If there is one thing I cannot stand it is pity, when someone cocks their head at you and pats you on the shoulder and you can see in their eyes they’re thinking ‘what a poor sod’.

I decided if I were to apply to Medicine again, I would only tell my parents and my few closest friends (literally like 2 people). Of course my colleagues in the laboratory knew as they were my sole support system and encouragement throughout the entire process, but other than that, not a soul knew, and I am so glad I did it that way. I had no pressure! If I got in – GREAT, if I didn’t, nothing would have changed and I didn’t have to explain myself to a bunch of people who would take it upon themselves to give me the pity briefing.

It was now or never. Would I channel my efforts into one last round of medical school applications while I had the spare time and no other academic commitments other than my placement? Or would I accept that I didn’t get in the first time and therefore I was unlikely to get in again?

I went for it. And boy am I glad I did.

At some point, you have to make a decision. Boundaries don’t keep other people out. They fence you in. Life is messy. That’s how we’re made. So, you can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them.” – Meredith Grey (sorry, she’s just too quotable)

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