Without a doubt, the past year has been a challenging one, and will go down in history. It has been a difficult time for people of all walks of life and many of us have struggled mentally. For those of you applying to university this cycle, you are facing a level of uncertainty that previous generations have not had to deal with. Once again, exams have been cancelled and the way in which A Levels will be graded has changed. The details for the way in which you will be graded are not yet clear and it would be completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the ongoing disruption to your education and future plans. However you may be feeling at the moment, these turbulent times remind us of two important characteristics that doctors must have - resilience and being prepared. Developing these skills will aid you when it comes to results day and beyond, whatever the outcome you face.
So what is resilience? I like to think of it as our ability to adapt and respond to stressful situations. In other words, it is our ability to bounce back when things get tough. On the whole, medicine is a fantastic career but there will be testing times and occasions where you encounter difficulties. Resilience training is something that you may or may not encounter at school, medical school, or as a doctor. However there are some good resources online that delve a bit deeper into how to develop resilience and provide exercises to try. These include the Stanford School of Medicine WellMD site, amongst others.
Whilst learning more about resilience is important, we mustn't forget the basics when it comes to looking after our own mental health and wellbeing. Black communities face a lot of additional challenges when it comes to mental health. For example, we know that the risk of psychosis in black Caribbean groups is seven times higher than in their white counterparts. This highlights how essential it is that we look after ourselves, especially at times of significant stress. Key practices that can help with our wellbeing include mindfulness, exercise and having a good support network. The Melanin Medics blog team have a number of articles on these topics that I would highly recommend. For example, the article on our Mind Us project, which can be found here goes into some detail about how you can nurture your wellbeing. We have another article here that discusses the importance of exercise for your wellbeing, and a further article here on mindfulness. These are just a few examples of what we have in our blog archives so make sure to take a look!
Now, moving on to the art of being prepared. As doctors, being prepared for all eventualities is a key skill, as you never know which emergencies or other challenges may arise on any given day. As aspiring medics in the middle of a pandemic, being prepared is going to be especially important for you too. We have a great article in our archive here about what to do if things don’t go your way. Amongst other areas, it includes information about UCAS Clearing, taking a gap year and alternative routes into medicine. We will also be posting further articles on some of these areas as the year goes on.
To summarise, all the chaos in the world has made it a tough time to be an aspiring medic. Being prepared for any outcome of your application and having the resilience to deal with any hurdles that arise will set you in good stead for the rest of your career. Whatever happens, the Melanin Medics team will be here to support you throughout. From applying to medical school all the way through to your careers as doctors, we’ve got you.
Dr Katy Chisenga
1. Fearon P., Kirkbride J.B., Morgan C. et al. (2006) Incidence of schizophrenia and other psychoses in ethnic minority groups: results from the MRC AESOP Study. Psychological Medicine, 36(11), 1541-1550