Saturday, 16 February 2008

Old Enough To Be Your Doctor?

The only reservation I ever have about university (apart from the atrocious error of judgment in choosing this particular one) is that I was too young when I started. I was barely 18 (only by a couple of days) when I started the 5 year journey of university. I've always been one of the youngest in my year and I’ve always wondered what would have been different if I’d been in the year below. Children's lives are defined by their school year group and there can be up to a year between students in the same groups. I started school at the age of 4 although I was allowed to fall asleep in the corner in the afternoons whilst the older children were kept awake! I wonder how long it takes for the August babies to catch up with their September friends - is there even anything to catch up? I'd say so - 1 year is a long time when you're 4 or 5! I always enjoyed being one of the youngest in my year at school, especially when it became clear that I was cleverer than many of those around me (how arrogant is that for a child?!)

Anyway, back to topic. I started university and was among the youngest around, in fact, I’ve never met anyone younger than me in my year - although statistically there must be some people younger than me (don't Scottish school years differ anyway?). I was surrounded by people who'd taken gap years and traveled the world, people who'd already done other degrees or people who already had entirely different careers but fancied a change. I was mature for my age, but compared to the people around me, was still relatively immature. I'd toyed with the idea of a gap year but for various reasons decided against it, I wonder now if it would have made any difference to my time at university. I don't regret not doing so, I just wonder what would have been different. Fortunately we've had the chance to do some traveling and it was great, I’m hungry for more.

I remember thinking when I started that I'd still be one of the youngest in the year group 5 years later when we all became doctors. Now that prospect is getting ridiculously close. Others around me have done intercalated years, resit years, or were just older when they started. So come August (pending finals) I’ll probably be one of the youngest out there, there is a high probability that I’ll be the youngest in the SW deanery what with 6yr courses, intercalation etc etc. Personally I think that’s quite cool, I’m not sure the patients will though. I think I look about my age so I’m certain I’ll get plenty of comments about being too young to be a doctor, behind my back mostly I expect. It doesn't bother me, they're probably right. Who would you want to be treated by? The 35 year old doctor who spent 10 years as an accountant before deciding on a career in medicine or fresh faced me who'll still be 22.

20 comments:

Ms-Ellisa said...

I feel exactly the same way as you- because in Greece people enter at 18 and I entered uni at 17,5...

Our six year course, given that I finish it on time, will make me a 23,5 year old doctor, and people tell me I look younger anyway.

So add all of this together, and then the fact that I actually want to be a surgeon, so I would hardly strike any confidence in my patients, that's what I'm afraid of...!

Xavier Emmanuelle said...

I still can't believe that you lot finish med so early! Anyway, I started uni at 17, and if I'm to get into med straight after this degree I'll be a doctor by 25.

If it's any help, I actually much prefer younger doctors, so perhaps you'll attract a large number of young patients -- I can more easily talk to someone closer in age to me, and I like all the newfangled interviewing techniques and such that doctors fresh out of med school have (and that they always remember to obtain consent, something I've not found in some of the older docs!!).

AMiB said...

i know exactly what you're talking about...i was 17 for my entire first year, and when i graduate I will be 22 (turning 23 in august). it's scary because on the off-chance that I do match to a residency back in the US, i'll be competeing with 26-27 year olds!

DundeeMedStudent said...

yep, Scottish school years work differently, the youngest in our year didn't turn 18 till the March of 1st yr.

ach you'll be fine young man.

sillyvicky said...

strange comment that I got off my head of sixth form when she realised I was the youngest in the year.

"The youngest in a year group are normal acadmicaly disadvantaged"

Polly said...

In Aus, most people turn 18 or 19 in their first year of university. It all depends on what state you went to school in. Regardless, I will turn 25 in my intern year. (I did a BSc before starting a graduate MBBS)

Personally, I think if you are good at what you do, then it really shouldn't matter how old you are. You'll be fine ;)

Elaine said...

Ah, there is no need to fret, tlm, when you get to my age, EVERY doctor (up to and including consultant or professor) is too young to have got there.

In fact I think this feeling comes much earlier.

Although I did comment aboout one junior doctor wearing a pelmet of a skirt, that if any of the seniors got hold of her it would be statutory rape of a minor as she looked about 14!

ditzydoctor said...

thankfully, where i come from, we stick to a strict age policy and not by grades policy (which can be bad!), but it generally means that everyone's around the same age!

i still feel too young to be walking around treating older patients old enough to be my parents!

dr_dyb said...

Call me biased, but I think that a mature student entering Medicine has some viewpoints and life experience which makes a lot of the social stuff more understandable and easier to cope with. You also have more idea who you are, what your views are and that makes it easier to say what you think, and explain why you take the ethical view you do, even if it is contrary to that of your coursemates.

You also know that there is more to life than Uni and Medicine, and this helps with a sense of perspective.

However, even at 5 years older than most people in my class I am still less confident (the arrogance of youth?) at doing certain tasks than they are, and would I think be a very bad JHO at the moment due to my lack of assertiveness. But that is character related not age related.

dr_dyb said...

Also, summer babies are less intelligent than winter ones, apparently. See http://www.ericdigests.org/1999-2/summer.htm

http://channels.isp.netscape.com/whatsnew/package.jsp?name=fte/birthday/birthday&floc=wn-nx links it to pesticides and nitrates used in the summer......

As ever, nature/nurture/nature/genetics/environment - who knows?

Medically Brunette said...

The patients won't know how old you are though surely? Unless you have totally OD'ed on oil of ulay and have the perfect unblemished skin of a youngster (do you? i'd be quite jealous!)
I haven't found age has brought me that much more confidence per se, just people are less likely to take the mick in the first place. This applies to general life though and not to medicine. the thought of clinical practise fills me with just as much nervousness as a fresh 23 year old! Perhaps even more so, won't expectations be higher?

Harry said...

As a very young grad (and probably a year younger than you) I feel I look like I could be a school leaver, but going to uni and stuff first totally changed who i was.

Uni second time round is not like the first that's for sure.

PhD scientist said...

Have to say that as a tutor I like having mature students in the group, and every tutor I know feels the same. Dr Dyb has already given some of the reasons.

I'm not it is specifically chronological age, as much as having done SOMETHING other than simply being at school for 13 years.

Of course, it could just be that they are marginally nearer my age.

the little medic said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Dr dyb - I saw the article about summer babies being less intelligent. Can't remember where I read about it, could have been the Sunday Times this week.

Anna said...

I'm at the opposite end of our year - I was already 19 when I started uni as I'm an early September baby. Which does mean I'll be nearly 24 when we start work...sigh.

Personally, I think it makes no difference by the time you get to uni as to whether you're old or young in your academic year. I was just as 'young' as everyone else when I started, despite have nearly a year more on the planet under my belt. The difference is life experience. Even just taking a single 'gap' year made a huge difference, compared to those of us who were school leavers. The graduate entry course lot were MILES more grown up than me in the beginning, but now it doesn't seem like such a big gap.

I hope you're fully recovered, and good luck for Wednesday!

missbliss said...

Meh, everyone I knew at Cambridge was born from March - August (myself included). I don't think much of the 'winter babies cleverer' thing. If anything, it would be because of the school year skewing results, but still this hasn't been bourne out in my experience of academic circles.

As for mature students - the same applied for the PGCE. Despite being some of the least assertive and capable trainees (not on account of their age, just the way it was) they got an instant advantage, in that students assumed they were not trainees immediately. Of course, within the first lesson the students have sniffed fresh blood and decided whether they want to work with you or not.

Anonymous said...

As a punter, so to speak, it's the elderly doctors who forget you are allergic to penicillin that bring me out in a rash! The younger ones a) listen to the patient, and b) take longer to prescribe but discuss the medication with you and explain possible side effects.

Jen said...

I started uni at 17 and a half, because I'm Scottish (even then, they would have let me in the year before) and I was one of the very youngest in my year. Paid off now though - graduated at 20, went straight into graduate entry medicine and will join the third year at 21, result! :) Most of the people I know who are as young as me are intercalating though.

Ms-Ellisa said...

I would love to agree that winter babies could be cleverer because it bodes well for me...

:-D

But still- NAAAAHHHH...

Anonymous said...

Its interesting to see all of the comments here... in the US, med school is 4 years after graduating from a 4 year university (with few exceptions). I skipped a few grades, and will be a doctor at just barely 23 years old, but most of my peers will be 26-28. Talk about an age gap! What I have found though is that staying humble and willing to learn from the varied experience of those older can go a long way, both in expanding your own knowledge and in quelling any sense of condescension or jealousy that you come across. Half way into my first clinical year, I've found this true with patients and attendings as well. Funny though, its nice to see other people who have to think about the enormous responsibility we will be handling at our very young ages. Best of luck to all!!
-Steffanie, Florida State University, Florida, USA