Getting into medical school is no easy feat. So when you finally make it there, it can be frustrating having to face outdated stereotypes. From your gender to your attitude, there is no one type of student medic. It is important to remember it is okay to not fit into the classic medic archetype.
Relax. You have made it there. You have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself. But it can be tough battling off those who simply don’t understand.
One student who has faced people’s misconceptions about medical students is 19-year-old Anna Nowicki. The Leicester Medical School student told Study International many people seem surprised when she tells them what she is studying.
They are “shocked but interested when I tell them I’m a medic,” she said. “Although I’m not exactly sure as to why that is.”
There have been countless incidents where people were astounded when Nowicki revealed the nature of her course. “Some guys in particular,” she said, “were thoroughly convinced I meant Nursing, not Medicine.”
It can be tough to know how to respond. Nowicki told Study International she places great emphasis on the fact she is an aspiring doctor not nurse.
“I don’t let the inherent suggestion that I don’t look smart enough for medicine get to my head,” she said.
Fellow student medic Ayra Matthews told Study International people tend to be surprised when she tells them she is a medic. “I can come across a quite dumb when it comes to common sense,” she said. “So people often don’t believe me.
“When I was applying to be a doctor, one of my friends told me I wasn’t a people person as I am not very good at reading people and thus I shouldn’t even bother. At medical school I have subsequently been told I am amazing with patients and would make an excellent doctor.”
A “nerdy” and serious attitude seems to be a significant assumption people tend to make about medical students.
“People expect medics to always look professional,” said Matthews. “People are always so surprised when you are on a night out and you say you are a medic. I have found my friends who go out partying often aren’t really seen as ‘proper’ medics.
“This is ridiculous,” Matthews said. “They have worked just as hard as anyone else to get to where they are and have every right to enjoy their time out of class however they like.”
Nowicki feels gender plays a role in some cases: “I would generally say that some guys act insecure if they feel a woman is smarter or more skilled than them.”
As a woman, it can be difficult to hold your head high above those who feel you cannot succeed as a doctor. Nowicki stressed this only comes from “a very insignificant proportion of men”, yet despite the rise in female doctors some people still stick to archaic assumptions about the medical profession.
On the other side of the spectrum, some male doctors also feel insecure about their gender in relation to their course and career pathway.
“I have seen articles in the media about how women make better doctors,” student medic Siôn Cook told Study International. “Which, as a man, I’m unsure how I feel about.”
Matthews claimed she has “heard comments that women make better doctors as they are able to empathise more”.
No matter what your gender, if you have the passion, drive, compassion and work ethic needed to make a great doctor, you should succeed.
Nowicki feels the issue lies deeper than it appears on the surface. “Everybody gets judged on their appearance, to a lesser or greater extent, whether we like it or not,” she explained.
“I would say most people don’t expect me to be a medic, from the reactions I’ve seen so far, but then again I don’t really care what superficial things people judge me on.”
*Some names have been changed.
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