An Insight by Matthew Watson
University of St. Andrews 2nd Year Medic
Above lies one of the great clichéd questions, encountered by prospective and current medical students alike with incessant regularity. It seems the popular assumption is that all future doctors pondered their future careers whilst taking their first steps, and have been following a concrete path ever since. In my own experience, the reality is very much to the contrary.
Personally, I am a shining beacon of indecision; my heart is swayed with the passing of every module and the completion of every placement. Despite this, I’ve been asked this question enough that I’ve perfected my staple answer, and can even predict the follow-ups. Without fail, I answer ‘I want to be a neurosurgeon’. But why do I feel so confident with this response? The coos it earns certainly reinforce it, but if you scratch the surface it becomes all too evident that this is nothing more than the fancies of a young, inexperienced student.
I’ve always had a fascination with the physiology, pathology and ultimate repair of the brain, and from a young age centred my reading around this. Tales from the great Oliver Sachs and Henry Marsh have triggered imaginations of following in their footsteps, but in reality this is as close as I have been to a neurosurgical theatre, despite having just completed my second year of med school. It’s difficult to witness first-hand the future possibilities at this stage of a medical career, regardless of how made up your mind may be. It’s even harder to get a chance to find out if you have the skills it takes to succeed in your fancied speciality, particularly in the case of surgery.
This is because most medical students get relatively few chances to get hands on with surgical methods. This almost exclusively takes the form of simulation, or the rare morbid treat of using cadaveric or animal tissue. Ordinarily the exposure one gets to such simulation is directly dependant on the quality of the surgical society at your university, or your ability to get involved with the society. eoSurgical grants a rare opportunity to change this.
eoSim gives students access to a world otherwise shut off to them. The ability to practice surgical techniques in the same way that qualified surgeons do is invaluable. It means you’re able to judge whether working so intimately with your hands and tools of extreme precision is something you may be capable of doing, or willing to do, day in, day out. Not only this, but at such an early stage you can receive and easily interpret data about performance, clearly laying out how to improve on basic, vital skills such as suturing. A far cry from peering down at a butchered suture pad with a colleague, trying to figure out where it all went so wrong.
Next time you anticipate fielding the familiar old questions, make sure you’ve spent some time with an eoSim. Your answers will be altogether more heartfelt.