Medicine and the Work-Work Balance

The vast majority of students have been supported beyond their needs until university and many are fortunate to have financial assistance during their degrees. For those whose income doesn’t seem to meet their outgoings and want to avoid their overdraft, there is always the choice of getting a job and becoming self-sufficient.

Theboe vast majority of students have been supported above and beyond their needs up until university and many are fortunate to have monetary assistance during their degrees – often interpreted as “fun money”. For those whose income doesn’t seem to meet their outgoings and wish not to stay afloat by way of overdraft, there is always the adult choice of getting a job and becoming self-sufficient. With many student-friendly options ranging from sales to Sainsbury’s, this may appear a manageable feat for most degrees. After working a year in retail whilst juggling a dissertation, a 4-month placement in Mansfield as well as other commitments, I’m able to support the idea that a job can be managed alongside a Medicine degree.

Realising that during 3rd year I would be spending all but 4-and-a-half weeks in Nottingham, I made the executive decision to get a transfer from home to a store in the city centre and take on a permanent 4-hour contract. My reason being that my dissertation (which ran from September to January) required relatively few contact hours compared with the 1st and 2nd years and I most definitely waste at least 4 hours a weekend – might as well make some money in the time I’m doing nothing important!

With having a job (especially one which takes out 4 – 6 hours slap bang in the middle of the day) you are forced to utilise whatever time management skills you have. I knew this would be a challenge but would pay off. I was now aware I couldn’t necessarily use my Saturday to saunter around town looking for a shirt for my evening engagement and that my shift would end just in time for the  shops to close, so I had to make sure I got to town in the morning. Work became the central point around which all my plans were formed and thus, I had a more organised and scheduled life. While some would argue this is too restrictive I would say the structure was generally a good thing and made my use of time more efficient. On top of that, for only 8 hours a weekend you cease to be lazy and you get pocket money at the end of the month – believe me, this always made it worth it.

All students have their limit and I feel with how demanding 3rd year was for me, medics have a reduced limit. The wannabe philosopher in me can only describe this as the Medical Students’  “Unachievable Pentad”, the five corners being:  “academic work”, “paid work”, “university extra-curricular activities”, “socialising” (including “do-nothing time”) and “sleep”. Obviously, once you have signed up for a job, this “corner” is set deep in stone. I spent a lot of this year juggling the other “corners” and depending on the time of the year, I had to prioritise some and let others slide. For example if I had an important sports practise/match but didn’t want to miss out on seeing my friends that week, less studying would get done; when coursework or a hard exam was coming up and I still needed my time to wind down but didn’t want to sacrifice my commitments, unfortunately I sacrificed sleep to achieve all of this. It’s about figuring out what is more important for YOU and what combination works for you; whether you want the extra money, to be involved in student life, to see your friends, the excellent grades you can achieve or simply your Sunday lie-ins.unachievable pentad

When I say “unachievable” of course this you can achieve all this; I am referring to not achieving all of this to the level that you may want to. After 12 months I have decided to leave my job to focus on my degree and so I can use my weekends to rest and catch up on work. As I often have to tell myself, I came to Nottingham to get a degree, not to pursue a future in retail.

My advice to those considering is don’t be afraid to get a job when you are able to, i.e. the earlier half of medical school. It only gets more demanding and medicine focused and I’ve appreciated having another aspect to my life over the past year.

Ebo Dadey,   Fourth Year