Back to school - 2013

The long days of summer holidays draw to a close and for many the mad dash starts to acquire all that is required, before the new term. For others there may be a tearful drive home after leaving their offspring at a chosen place of further education, or an anxious time when job applications are being submitted.

The rollercoaster ride of constant assessment and exams that runs for two or four years before this, finally culminates in an eight-week wait for THE ENVELOPE. Triumph or disaster are enclosed therein and must be faced equally. Those of you who have just completed this journey, I salute you. It must have been exhausting, no matter how intelligent and motivated your child is.

I am just about to start it. At the grand old age of 14 years, my son is already thinking about university, postgraduate courses and jobs. We listen patiently before pointing out there are many bridges to cross before we need to consider these things and, as my husband says 'the only thing you should think about at 14 is sport, food and girls' (in that order!).

Perhaps this is just the new generation being responsible - with youth unemployment across Europe at an all-time high, drifting through life without a care in the world is no longer an option. Some degrees are associated with higher rates of postgraduate employment than others - medicine is always top of the class in this regard, with over 99% employment and 92% of grads working in the UK. Perhaps this is partly responsible for the oversubscription to medicine courses, but other degrees such as teaching (92.6%) and biomedical sciences (91.8%) have impressive rates of employment also. Here's the question - would you actively encourage an offspring to take up medicine?

There have always been strong family ties in medicine - three or four generations being able to sit around the dinner table and discuss the latest hot topic. The ability to work hard and withstand tiredness and pressure have always been prerequisite, witnessed by the offspring and inspiring their own future career aspirations. Sometimes the youngsters may feel pressure (real or imagined) to follow suit, but when I speak to medical students it is more usual that they want to be 'as good as mum/dad'. No pressure or active encouragement required then. Next question - would you actively discourage them?

There are undoubtedly many fantastic reasons to do medicine - usually related to your patients and the team you work with, but being a good medic is challenging, mentally and physically. Keeping up-to-date, caring about your patient (no matter how tired/stressed/busy you are) and communicating effectively are necessary. I would like to think my child was capable of rising to that challenge and would have similar job satisfaction, but would never wish him to go through the daily frustrations of working in the pressure of the NHS, unsupported and unappreciated (by most). Fortunately my son loves physics and engineering (85.4% in jobs or further education), not biology.

And as we also face a new academic year we will endeavour to support you in meeting at least one of your three challenges as a medic. Our content updates for August may be found here and include revised guidance from NICE regarding hepatitis B, familial breast cancer and stroke rehabilitation.