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40... And a journalist...

Discussion in 'Mature Students' started by Agfoxx, Feb 4, 2017.

  1. Agfoxx

    Agfoxx New Member

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    Hi all,

    I know this has probably been asked here a million times, but please indulge me.

    Many years ago, I graduated as a journalist from Moscow State University. I went to school in Ukraine. I, therefore, have no GSCEs or A-Levels, or anything remotely recognizable in the British academic world.

    I moved to London in 1999 and - to my utter surprise at the time - landed a job with the BBC. Which is where I have been since. As you have probably gathered from the title of this thread, I'm now 40. And a fairly senior editor. With a salary which is comfortable but not obscene (don't believe what you read in the Daily Mail).

    The BBC, as I'm sure you know, has been shrinking. So I've been offered the option of taking redundancy. I don't have to do it. But if I said yes, I would get a very generous payout - I've worked for the BBC since I was 23, so 17 years, and payouts are calculated on the basis of.... oh, nevermind. Suffice to say, it's a lot.

    I come from a medical family, and I always wanted to be a doctor. But the 1990s were an interesting time in Russia/Ukraine. You had to pay a massive bribe to get into medical school. Our family never had this sort of money. So I kind of settled for my second best option of being a journalist.

    I've done plenty in my career - but one of the most enjoyable elements has always been attending the compulsory Hostile Environment and First Aid Training. Everybody who works in News has to do it every two years for insurance purposes. I have had to put my skills as a first-aider to use twice, for a road traffic accident in Haiti and for a shrapnel wound in Georgia (the country, not the US state).

    I also volunteer with St. John's Ambulance, and I do blood runs with SERV (a group of volunteers who use their own cars/bikes to deliver blood to NHS hospitals overnight, saving the NHS money on taxis).

    The more I think about the redundancy offer the BBC has made, the more I think I would really like to use the time and the money to go back to school. To medical school.

    Hence - some questions to you.
    1) Am I mad?
    2) For somebody with zero UK qualifications like me, what's the route? Sit GSCEs and then do Access to Medicine?
    3) How realistic is it to do freelance work while in med school? I'm very aware of the fact that even though the redundancy should be enough cover university fees, I'd still have to maintain my family.
    4) Of all areas of medicine, the one which attracts me most is acute/A&E. Would I be better off looking at paramedic training, then? On the basis of how long it takes to complete training and to start generating at least some income (see (3) above)? Does being a paramedic make it easier to then study at a "proper" med school?
    5) Am I mad?

    Thank you!
     
  2. Fizzwizz

    Fizzwizz Technical Administrator

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    Hi Agfoxx

    I was drawn to your post, because I am your complete polar opposite.

    13 years ago I was in your position, except I worked in business and IT. I managed to get a position in Swansea medical school at 38 years old, and am now an Emergency Doctor.

    I am now desperate to get out of medicne, and I see it as the single worst decision I made in life. Stumbling around, trying to find a way out, I have discovered writing and have been working hard to try to generate any kind of income doing so. I write for an American online magazine, and have started several other writing projects. None of which look like they can feed my dog, let alone my family.

    I imagined, at this stage of my career, I would spend my day saving the lives of the very sick and injured. In reality, I spend the whole day seeing well people who think they are dying. It is like factory work; monotonous, relentless, and thankless, with weekend shifts, night shifts, and long hours. It is no different for paramedics neither, they spend most of their day (and night) attending the same non emergency stuff in the hope of seeing at least one real emergency case that utilises their training.

    So in short; yes, I think you are mad. However, when I was given this advice 13 years ago, I completely ignored it thinking it would be different for me. So if you really want to go from an autonomous creative career to the thankless and dull life of an emergency doctor, and be treated like a child for the next 12 years, then here's my advice:

    When I last looked (13 years ago) some medical schools did not require A levels, provided you had a valid degree and were applying for a post graduate program. Write to each graduate school and ask, or look at their admission criteria. Swansea is a good bet.

    You will struggle to do any meaningful work part time. Graduate entry medicine is crammed into 4 years. You do the same number of weeks as the 5 year courses (150) but done over 4, with additional exams and projects on top.

    Getting trained as a paramedic is also competitive, but is easier than medicine, and takes only 3 years. It is poorly paid, and not nearly as exciting as you may imagine. It is regimented, and restricted in its scope of practice. 99% of your day will be ferrying relatively well elderly people to the emergency department, in the night, because the GP won't get out of bed.

    if you want to scratch that itch, I advise joining a first responder team in your local area, and stick with your well established career that I would gladly trade you mine for.

    Good luck ... Fizz
     
    #2 Fizzwizz, Feb 6, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
  3. Agfoxx

    Agfoxx New Member

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    Fizz, thank you. This is optimistic :)

    I'm going to a mature students' evening at Brighton med school tonight, just to mingle. Will see what people say....

    Oh, and while we're on the subject of a "creative career". I think you and I are talking about different BBCs. In mine, senior editors (like me) spend their time writing job descriptions, peering at budget spreadsheets, arguing with HR about the subtle difference between performance management and perceived bullying, negotiating with business support about the number of chairs their department needs etc.

    Over the last few months, I can count the number of times when I actually edited a piece of text - on the fingers of one hand.

    No bed of roses anywhere, eh?
     
    #3 Agfoxx, Feb 7, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
  4. AussieBoy

    AussieBoy Member

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    If you look at my previous posts, my thoughts on this as a person who went to med school mid/late 30s are clear.

    Fizz's post provides an honest update of the UK situation. Explains why the our EDs in Australia a full of poms, but the door is closing. Get yourself her, Fizz, whilst the going's reasonable.
     
  5. AussieBoy

    AussieBoy Member

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    PS the OP mentions that redundancy is optional. Don't take it. Sounds like you have a nice sinecure. Stick with it.
     
  6. Fizzwizz

    Fizzwizz Technical Administrator

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    Had to smile when I saw this. I live and work in Australia :)
     
  7. Agfoxx

    Agfoxx New Member

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    That's the thing, AussieBoy. Sticking with a job just because it's a sinecure is just not something I do. I had the option to take a job of a diplomatic corr a few years ago. A string of jollies, essentially, travelling the world, staying in five star hotels, eating fine meals, and doing little journalism. Guess why I didn't take it?
     
  8. Fizzwizz

    Fizzwizz Technical Administrator

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    I said exactly the same thing 13 years ago when people were telling me not to leave my career. Wish I'd listened. Hope it works out better for you, let me know in 13 years. ;-)
     
  9. AussieBoy

    AussieBoy Member

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    Really - didn't realise. Surprised your having such a painful time of it - most UK trained ED registrars / consultants seem only to complain only about ongoing management issues (i.e. being required to managed rosters etc as they become more senior). rather than the ED job itself. Won't argue with your direct experience, though. ED wasn't for me for the reasons you point out but then again some people love it.
     
  10. AussieBoy

    AussieBoy Member

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    Sounds like you would have swapped one sinecure for another. Not sure what the relevance that comparison is: to head to med school you'd be jacking in certainty for uncertainty.

    You'll have at ~20 months before you start the course if you apply this year, plus your four years plus F1 F2 before you get into an ED in anger, at which point you'll be pushing 50. Night shifts are a disorientating, wearying nightmare and if you choose ED they go on for many years after F2. They suck more the more senior you are because then you have to take decisions.

    Specialty training is hard to balance with family life (which we haven't covered yet) and inimicable with a civilised existance unless you want to sociailise solely with those in the same situation as you. The out of hour exam study just adds insult to injury.

    Having been on this board for 13 years and undergone FRACP training aloingside my ED and surgical reg friends, I would have to conclude that the only way to enter the 10 year medical training process is to be happy to be a GP if you can't manage the other training pathways for whatever reason. If you "end up" in general practice should ED / med reg / surgery / whatever not work out, you won't be happy so that at least has to be a viable option for the medical student in their 40s.
     
  11. Agfoxx

    Agfoxx New Member

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    A sinecure as in, an easy job with little responsibility or hardship.
    But that's beside the point.

    Thank you for the other notes - can I please ask you to explain this in a bit more detail though? What do you mean by "won't be happy"? And if not, why is that a viable option?

    Thanks
     
  12. Fizzwizz

    Fizzwizz Technical Administrator

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    My experience is that junior doctors seem to enjoy Australia, but senior UK doctors have more of a problem adjusting to the different medical model that is almost the opposite to the UK model. In Australia there is a lot of over testing, over diagnosis, and overtreatment driven by the semi private model, and less acceptance of the concept of medical harm. In the UK there is more emphasis on 'less is more', risk balance, and treatments that have been proven to change outcome. When I tell my colleagues I'm not going to xray a rib fracture as it doesn't change outcomes, they almost have kittens. Most here would do a CT. Established UK doctors struggle in Australia, and I'm told by my UK agency that established Australian doctors don't cope well in the UK. I prefer working in the UK, but you can't beat the QLD sunshine.
     
  13. Fizzwizz

    Fizzwizz Technical Administrator

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    But back to Agfoxx; you'd be best looking at the admission criteria for each graduate school. Find one that doesn't need A levels, though, they will probably expect an entrance exam like the dreaded GAMSAT.

    You'll also need to do a fair amount of voluntary work. What you have done may show an interest, but what they are truly looking for someone who knows what to expect from the career. I used to do interviews for medschool admissions, and my favourite question was "What do you think your job entails as an F1, and what will be different in F2?" You wouldn't believe the naivety of some of the answers. Get a voluntary job on the wards, or helping in ED. Speak to the junior docs, look at their job, and their lifestyle. Understand their lack of autonomy, and their mainly clerical role doing ward paperwork and clerking. Understand what they do, then find a good reason to want to do it yourself and you're in for a better than average chance.

    Good luck ... Fizz
     
  14. Recap

    Recap New Member

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    Fantastic answer and thank you Fizzwizz.

    Do you have any recommendations on how to approach getting work experience on wards or as an ED? Do you know if these are open to non-UK students?
     
  15. Fizzwizz

    Fizzwizz Technical Administrator

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    Most hospitals have a voluntary recruitment manager. Speak to them tell them you are interested in a medical career and you want to spend some time helping out on the wards to gain a better understanding of the career. They will advise you of any recruitment criteria.

    Cheers ... Fizz
     
  16. Recap

    Recap New Member

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    Thanks so much, Fizzwizz!
     

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