NEXT month, I will graduate from Hull York Medical School after six years studying to become a doctor. It’s a time of both great excitement and apprehension as I look ahead to the challenges I’ll face throughout my medical career.
During medical school, I have been encouraged and inspired by accomplished role models and mentors, and was privileged to meet exceptional doctors across Yorkshire who go above and beyond the call of duty to care for their patients and train the future medical workforce.
It is this level of dedication and professionalism that I aspire to in order to provide the best possible care I can for my patients.
Yet, as I prepare for my first post in an emergency department, I am already apprehensive about the pressures I’ll be forced to cope with.
Throughout medical school, we have been told how important it is to maintain a work-life balance, but from what I’ve experienced of the immense strain doctors are under, that will be one of the greatest challenges in my career.
The doctor I’m currently shadowing is nearing the end of a 12-day stint in A&E, which you don’t need me to tell you isn’t healthy, and as I picture my first day as an emergency doctor, I imagine staff struggling to cope with increasing demand, a struggle for beds, and doctors exhausted after working long, consecutive shifts.
Although I am eager to start working in A&E, and providing care to patients when they need it most, gruelling workloads, limited resources and intense pressure have made it an unsustainable work environment for many doctors and staff.
The British Medical Association has recognised these issues and is calling for the Government to take urgent action to address this and allow doctors to provide our patients with the care they need and deserve.
Despite the pressures of a medical career, increasing numbers of students apply each year to medical school in the hope of working for the NHS, but the journey to becoming a doctor is increasingly difficult. Tuition fees have risen to £9,000 a year and the growing number of medical students has meant that foundation training programmes, which students must do after medical school to become doctors, are oversubscribed.
This year, 293 medical students were unable to confirm a job for August, and while 97 have now got posts, 200 people are left not knowing whether everything, including the debt, the sleepless nights, and the £270,000 of taxpayer investment, was worth it.
The BMA will debate this issue at its annual meeting in Harrogate this week, as a sustainable solution is urgently needed to avoid another mismatch in the number of medical graduates and foundation programme posts. We must ensure that jobs are available for the next generation of doctors, and guarantee that medical expertise and skill isn’t wasted at a time when the NHS is already facing a recruitment crisis.
On top of this, new private medical schools pose a threat, not only to the future jobs of medical school graduates, but also to the ongoing work to widen access to medicine.
The UK’s first private medical school has already accepted 25 students onto next year’s course and intends to recruit 66 students in the first intake, with each student being charged £35,000 a year for a four and a half-year degree.
I strongly believe that medics should be from a range of backgrounds, not just from families who can afford to pay high fees. Doctors should represent the patients they serve, but I fear that after taking one step forward, we’ve recently taken two steps back, with the current system failing to encourage potential medics from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
While I am excited to take on the challenge of my first job, and finally do what I have aspired to for so long, I am regularly reminded that it will be a personal battle to ensure I stay devoted to my patients and not hardened by the system I will be working in.
Although working as a doctor can be tough, it is a challenge I have taken on because I, like my colleagues, want to provide the best quality care for my patients, and there is not a shadow of doubt in my mind that all the hard work has been and will be entirely worth it.
Melody Redman is a medical graduate from Hull York Medical School.