The ten fears of (almost) every medical student

by     8 Comments    Posted under: all, Career, Medical Schools

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Getting into medical school is just the beginning.

Most medical students will admit to getting stressed or panicked about things on a fairly regular basis throughout their 5 or 6 years at medical school.

Yes, we know that medics are a strange group of people at the best of times but still, have a read of the following and try to sympathise!


1. Stress from “not knowing what I’m supposed to be doing”

This one is a bit pathetic, but is fairly typical in ‘high achievers’ who often prefer a prescriptive learning regime rather than too much freedom of thought.

Luckily medical school is quite a busy time, full of assignments to keep them busy and so this mainly happens to new medics between getting their A-levels and getting their first pointless written assignment.

How about an essay on the actions of muscarinic antagonists?


2. Fainting

Will I faint as soon as I see a cadaver, or will it happen when I witness a needle going into a vein?

This sort of fear is common since fainting can happen to absolutely any medical student, from the petite girl who never though she was squeamish to the huge rugby player who missed breakfast.

If it happens to you once, you’ll always worry that it may happen again, making anatomy sessions as well as surgical attachments quite stressful.

Luckily we have an anti-fainting guide to help you prevent any embarrassing collapses in front of your colleagues.


3. Competition

It’s great being top of your class during A-levels and even during a non-medical undergraduate degree. However, as soon as you arrive at medical school you are surrounded by a whole class of people who are used to being top of the class. Rather than accept that there will be a new distribution of talents and skills, some med students get awfully stressed by this and spend excess time and energy trying to out-nerd their fellow nerds.

This really does happen, I’m afraid to say, and I have personally witnessed students doing crazy things such as hiding library books or sitting in the computer room all night over a fifteen minute assignment, or even hyperventilating as they look at their mark sheet.

It’s all because nobody ever told you that once you get into medical school you should aim for a C. We at advise our med student clients to aim for minimum passing grades whilst working on a career beating CV behind the scenes. It’s easy with the right advice.


4. Fear of failure

The costs in medicine are always high. At any stage in your career a single error could see you

a) being investigated by the GMC and losing your career.

b) nicking a vessel and seeing a patient exsanguinate.

c) forgetting a routine test and getting sued in court.

Yet somehow medics mostly manage such stresses without showing it. Occasionally it all comes out though…

It is important to emphasise that there is always help for stressed medical students and doctors and it needn’t affect your career. Too often, disasters happen when the early signs of stress are ignored.


5. Hang on a minute… I get these very same symptoms!

Every medic will recognise the fear that results when the symptoms we are learning about or asking about appear within ourselves. Knee pain, blurred vision, regular headaches and sensory deficits eh?

It isn’t funny when it happens, but thankfully it usually ends up being nothing at all or having a perfectly benign explanation.

Sadly though, doctors do sometimes get sick and even die prematurely.

So which symptoms are real and which are a figment of my imagination?

Is this a sore throat or the first sign of leukaemia?


doceatdoc i told you i was sick


6. Fear of being humiliated

Much of medical student teaching involves performing in front of our colleagues and tutors. We’ve all seen someone say something embarassing or ignorant in such settings. This can be humiliating and most medical students have a memory of something similar that still makes them cringe.

Example: Getting my words mixed up to comic effect in an OSCE exam (and therefore failing) whilst the examiner tried hard to suppress his amusement


7. Fear of discrimination

Those medical students from any sort of minority group are aware that medicine is somehow different to the rest of the workplace. In medicine you can always feel discriminated against if a patient holds strong racist, sexist or other abhorrent views.

They may refuse to see you or simply pass a certain comment to make their point.

Although it isn’t acceptable, there is a very real risk that at some point in your career you will have to endure some discrimination.

At least our colleagues are (mostly) supportive though eh?


8. Fear of losing out

Medicine takes up such a large amount of ones time as well as ones physical and mental energy that it’s often impossible to enjoy all the other things that are there to be enjoyed in young adulthood.

Are we losing out? Of course we are! What exactly is being missed though is open to speculation.


9. Ending up like that old, single, debt laden, overworked and miserable registrar

There is always that risk isn’t there? However hard we work, however many papers we publish and however many favours we do for our colleagues along the way we could end up in a dead end in our mid-thirties. Our colleagues that went into law and dentistry will wonder why we are still struggling financially, and why it’s taken us the best part of a decade to gain proficiency in a tiny subspeciality with minimal prospects for gainful employment within our remaining lifespan.

It can end up like this.

doceatdoc poor reg


10. Fear of neglecting our family and friends

Becoming a medical student should feel like starting any other degree course. So why do so many medics complain that they have little time left for their family or old friends?

It’s as if medical students disappear into an ever narrowing social circle of fellow medics, where all they talk about is medicine. Is this some sort of group therapy? Have we forgotten how to converse with those we once knew or is there really no time?


Are you a medical student? (or soon to be one?)
Do you need help to avoid these stresses yet still ensure you are doing the right things for your chosen carer path?

A one-to-one coaching session with our experts might be just the investment you need.
If you have a specific career related question just email us! We always respond.




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  • Komal Patel

    It’s as if medical students disappear into an ever narrowing social circle of fellow medics, where all they talk about is medicine. Is this some sort of group therapy? Have we forgotten how to converse with those we once knew or is there really no time?

    Love to read it. Thank you for such a great posts.

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