Television loves medical shows. Between ER, Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, and whatever Mindy Kaling is doing now, you can’t change the channel without seeing two doctors bang it out in the on-call room or make witty banter about a patient with a light bulb stuck up his ass. You know what no one makes TV shows about? Medical school. You’d think that a bunch of smart, fresh out of college future docs would make for a great Netflix binge, but there’s a reason this hasn’t happened yet. It’s because med school sucks.
Being a doctor is awesome, but everyone seems to ignore the path to getting there. This is probably for the best, because there’s a lot about med school that no one tells you until it’s too late:
1. It’s more like high school than college.
An average med school class has roughly 150 students, so chances are everyone is going to know everything about everybody. Spending almost every day with these people in a high stress environment is a recipe for disaster. By the end of first year, the web of hookups and breakups is so complicated you need a professional cartographer to actually map it out. It’s like band camp, except with fewer flutes.
2. You lose the ability to communicate like a normal human.
Don’t get me wrong, med students love to talk about med school. This is more a function of necessity than passion. We actually have nothing else to talk about. It also doesn’t help that the majority of words I use in conversation now are ones I’ve learned in the last two years. I’m not antisocial, it’s just that if we had a conversation, I would have absolutely nothing non-medical to contribute. Along the same lines…
3. Your idea of a typical conversation is actually horrifying.
When every day consists of learning about what can happen to human bodies, it’s easy to forget that most people are perfectly content with an “ignorance is bliss” approach to disease and dying. You might think there’s nothing strange about sitting in the hospital cafeteria telling other med students exactly how far you watched blood spray in the ER this morning, but now the nice family at the table next to you is about to have an uncomfortable conversation with their two young children explaining what the word “exsanguinate” means.
4. It’s difficult to meet people outside of school.
Women are attracted to doctors. In their eyes, being a doctor equates to having money, prestige, and great genetics. In reality, being a med student equates to having crippling student loan debt and little to no free time, neither of which are panty-droppers. If you’re a girl in med school, there’s a 98% chance that you’re more successful and intelligent than the guy buying you drinks, so have fun dealing with his bruised ego.
5. It takes a long time before you actually know things.
I’ll let you know as soon as someone asks me a question I can answer off the top of my head. Usually I just stand there doing my best Eli Manning impression, hoping if I stand still long enough they’ll forget what they asked me and go away.
6. You only have a 50% chance of being above average.
Technically this is true about everything in life, but if you’re smart enough to get into med school, chances are this statistic has never applied to you before. In med school, everyone is smart. Really smart. Also, no one who gets accepted is used to not being the best at whatever they do, which leads us into…
7. Asking for help is admitting weakness.
No one likes admitting they need help, much less asking for it. Add this to the fact that anyone who can help already views you as competition and the situation starts to look worse. No one wants to be the Peeta Mellark of med school, so most of the time we just shut up and pray that Wikipedia will save the day one more time.
8. Your friends grow up around you.
By now, all your friends have adult jobs with real paychecks and you’re still paying (out the ass) to be in school. While your friends are realizing all the fun things they can do with their new income, you’re in roughly the same financial position as your freshman year of high school. Pledge class trip to Vegas? Sure, I’ll just gamble away my loan money. That sounds like an awesome idea.
9. Everyone will ask you for medical advice.
In the three months between graduating college and starting med school, the way people perceive you will change dramatically. The moment you put on that white coat everyone seems to forget you’re the same asshole who got into a drunken Twitter fight with a bar owner on a Monday night and instead start asking for your advice. They have absolutely no clue what a terrible idea that is. While you can certainly impress bore friends and family with your mediocre understanding of biochem and physiology after first semester, the truth is you have no idea whether the rash Uncle Randy is trying to show you in the bathroom after Christmas dinner is just dry skin or something he picked up on one of his “business trips” to Thailand. Go see a real doctor, you pervert.
10. Bullshitting your way through things won’t cut it anymore.
It doesn’t mean anything if you can cram well enough to pass an exam, because the knowledge you just regurgitated onto a Scantron sheet may be the difference between someone living or dying. Let that soak in for a minute. Considering I’ve seen a significant portion of my future doctor classmates vomit in public, this is terrifying.
The truth is, if there were anything you’d rather be than a doctor, you wouldn’t put yourself through four years of this. As for me, I’m sticking it out and hoping that giving up the good part of my twenties will pay off later as a really kickass retirement.