Back to school today. A fresh start, a new beginning, start of a new chapter. Words words words, so what do all these cliche’s actually mean for us students as we kick off a new academic year?
I write today as a means to get motivated for what is to come. A year of learning. Minimal holidays. Long hours. Consecutive weeks where my biggest expense will be coffee.
I’m heading into third year, which at ANU means the start of the Phase Two – the clinical years. It does feel like we’re a few steps closer to real medicine. Like maybe we’ll be part of the team this year? Surely we’ll now be seeing many more patients than books. That said, our previous head of clinical teaching referred to our position as medical students as being the bottom of the bottom. With a wry smile and a giggle, we would be assured that only when lucky enough to make it to an internship could we consider ourselves as having graduated to the bottom step of the ladder. So at two years down and with two to go, our cohort is slightly off the ground. We’re halfway to the bottom step of the ladder. Yep, time to get that motivation happening.
Today’s post is about where to find it.
The early years of a medical education are thick with interrogation – ‘Why do you want to be a doctor?’. If I’m honest, I hate this question. I don’t believe the details of our ‘why’ even matter. Perhaps I am biased. For me, medicine was not a lifelong goal. There are no family photos of me with a teddy bear and a stethoscope. My ‘why’ seeded during time with patients in a clinical setting. My hat was that of an exercise physiologist but I got to love the people side of the health industry. I was lucky to have some influential people in my ears, my desires shifted and I started my GAMSAT study. I haven’t looked back. I won’t follow that tangent anymore for now. I bring it up only to make the assertion that provided you have one, the roots of your ‘why’ are largely inconsequential.
Back to our search for motivation.
I believe that maybe the motivation is in the direction. Perhaps if we have considered the direction we wish to go, and can then see that the steps in front of us are going that way, some level of motivation will push us along. It’s clear that some of us carry higher levels of motivation than others. However, it seems that for the vast majority there is a strong ENOUGH desire to become a doctor that we will do whatever we need to do to get through. I believe that for each of us, the desire (or our ‘why’) gives us the direction, and having the right direction keeps the motivation topped up.
My second assertion for the day: at the outset of a new academic year, whether walking into third year, first year or your final year, you had better replenish your motivation.
For me, replenishing my motivation is about revisiting my ‘why’. It’s about tapping into my desire to be a doctor by reminding myself of the aspects of medicine that excite me. I get excited thinking about the challenge of the career, the people I will meet, the chance to be forever learning. I’ve got no idea where in the medical world this will take me, but I also don’t think that matters (Yet). With two year’s to go, kicking myself into gear is about setting my sights on the bottom step of the ladder. Sure, I know there will be much climbing from that point on but I want to be challenged. I want to see the best and worst of people and to make a difference in peoples lives. This is me recharging my desire.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have just spent two weeks on a John Flynn placement. These were two weeks of confirmation that my desire is in the right place. They were confirmation that this desire has put me on the right direction. Feeling as though I’m on the right direction has given me renewed motivation, it’s given me further confidence in my ‘why’.
So to the advice. As we kick off another year of school revisit your ‘why’. If you are heading into year one, be ready for the interrogation, be assured that the roots of your desire do not matter. Be clear that your ‘why’ is no better or worse than the person sitting beside you. For those further through the program, remember the ‘why’ you came in with. Remind yourself that your current direction, although dull and downright unpleasant at times, is a necessary step. Let this knowledge feed your motivation. Do what you need to get excited again.
Motivation means you will hit the ground running. Coffee will do the rest.