• 07 December 2020
  • 14 min read

7 Things to Consider When Thinking About Medical School in Ireland

  • Gary McGowan
    Medical Student
    • Mat Martin
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Richard Gill
  • 0
  • 1742
Play video: "Despite all of the study that goes in, despite all the work, all of the hours, you can have a lot of fun while studying medicine."

Second year Medical Student, Gary McGowan, gives a rundown of 7 points to consider before going to Medical School as well as what you can expect if you do decide it’s right for you.

Topics covered in this article

(0.07) Introduction

1. (0.16) Graduate Vs Direct Entry

2. (2.13) Medical School Gives You A Foundation To Work From

3. (4.07) You Will Meet Lots Of People From Diverse Backgrounds

4. (5.40) You WILL Have Free Time

5. (6.57) There Are Differences Between Universities

6. (8.05) You Will Get Plenty Of Actual Experience

7. (9.48) Medicine Is Fun

(0.07) Introduction

Hello, my name is Gary McGowan.

I'm a second year medical student at University College Cork, and I'm here today to tell you about seven things you should know about studying medicine in Ireland.

1. (0.16) Graduate Vs Direct Entry

So first things first, number one, the first thing you want to be aware of is graduate versus direct entry medicine.

Personally, I'm a graduate entry student.

What that means is that I've done a degree previously, and as a result, the course is a bit shorter.

So everyone in my course will be doing a four year course graduate entry medicine or GEM.

And as a result, it's one year shorter than the direct entry medicine course.

The direct entry students will do a five-year course, and they come in after doing their Leaving Cert exams.

So you do your Leaving Cert, then you do what's called the HPAT exam, which is different to the graduate entry exam, which is the GAMSAT.

The GAMSAT is the exam that you sit if you're doing graduate entry.

That's what I would have done, and that involves a number of different elements, including science knowledge.

There is a little bit of the sciences that are required there, but also things like reading comprehension and your ability to read a passage, take out the key points of information, be able to reason well with that information, and also things like essay writing.

Being able to write about topics related to politics and society, even as well as philosophy or psychology.

There's different types of essays that come up in the GAMSAT.

As a result, the GAMSAT rewards a broad range of personal abilities, and as a result, there's a broad range of people that end up getting into medicine because you can have different strengths, different weaknesses, and still get into the graduate entry program.

For the direct entry program, you come in via the HPAT, which is more of an aptitude test, so it's a little bit more of an aptitude element to it.

I haven't sat it myself, so I won't give you personal advice related to it.

But that's the DEM and the DEM, direct and graduate entry, four years for graduate entry, five years for direct entry, and obviously different ages between the two as a result.

2. (2.13) Medical School Gives You A Foundation To Work From

Secondly, "I'm a doctor."

Okay? The reason I say that is because one of the things you might think is that once you study medicine, once you get into medical school, that at the end of it, you're just this genius Doctor that knows everything about health and everything about disease.

This isn't the reality.

The reality is that medical school gives you a base from which you have to try and work your way forward.

So you come out of studying medicine, particularly where I'm at at the moment, halfway through the degree.

I'm very much at that base of having all of these different subjects that are taught independently.

They link together a bit, but it doesn't really tell you how you're going to be able to actually manage a patient when you're working with them in the real world, in a hospital, in a GP practice, et cetera.

As you progress towards the end of the degree, it does become more applied, but still, once you get out, you're at the bottom of the chain.

As an intern, when you graduate, there's still so much learning to be done, so much expertise to be gained, and as a result, there might be a difference between what you perceive your knowledge level to be in first year, in second year, in third year, and fourth year, or fifth year, and when you actually go out into the real world.

Generally if you're studying medicine, family and friends might think, "Oh, they're basically a Doctor. I'm going to ask the medical questions".

And you might think that yourself before you start studying medicine.

But when you get into studying medicine, you begin to realise:

"Wow, I know nothing. There's so much to know, and realistically, I'm not going to know everything until I'm 20, 30, 40 years down the line".

It's a never-ending path, and while of course you gain lots of valuable knowledge, lots of valuable skills, it really is a never-ending path.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that once you're in, you've done your physiology and your anatomy that now you're ready to be a Doctor because it's a bit more complicated than that.

3. (4.07) You Will Meet Lots Of People From Diverse Backgrounds

Thirdly, you will have the opportunity to meet lots of new people, which is one of the great things about medicine, particularly graduate entry medicine, so I am a little bit biased in that sense.

I've had the opportunity to meet people from the most diverse backgrounds.

So people from different countries that speak different languages.

Most of our class aren't even Irish, despite the fact that I study in Ireland.

Our class is predominantly Canadian if I recall correctly.

We got a lot of Canadians in our class.

We've got some Americans.

We've got people from Australia.

We've got people from all over the globe.

That's one of the nice things is that you get exposed to the cultures of other people.

You get an idea of how they have came to this point in life.

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They obviously haven't come up through the standard Leaving Cert approach that we've gone through here in Ireland.

It's interesting to learn from those people.

But not only that, there's also diversity in terms of people's backgrounds, such as their professional backgrounds.

There are people who have come from engineering backgrounds, myself from Physiotherapy, others in Psychology, people in business.

So lots and lots of different backgrounds, different routes to eventually studying medicine.

As a result, you don't get stuck in this total echo chamber.

While medicine is a bit of an echo chamber and that a lot of the things you talk about with your friends end up being medicine related a lot of the time on fortunately, you do have that benefit of everyone having their own personal strengths, their own personal weaknesses.

And as a result that gives you an opportunity to grow, which is of course beneficial.

4. (5.40) You WILL Have Free Time

Number four is free time.

So this is one of the main things that people freak out about when it comes to studying medicine.

You'll watch medicine videos online, vlogs, day in the life of medical students, and it can seem like there's just never an opportunity to have or to engage in any of your hobbies, any of the things that are meaningful to you.

And the reality is that you will have time.

Once you manage your time well in medicine, you will have free time.

So personally, I work alongside medicine, so I've got my own business, and that takes up a lot of my time too.

And by managing my time well personally through my medical studies, I'm able to afford time to invest in things related to my own work, but also other hobbies such as training, for example.

So you do have time.

You will have time provided you manage your time well, so don't be scared of studying medicine just because of the time investment because it's manageable once you put in the work, but you do have to put in the work.

So there is a big time investment.

It's certainly more time intensive than a lot of other courses that you will have done.

I studied Physiotherapy previously, and the time investment was much, much lower.

So I don't want to downplay it too much either because you will have to put in the work.

5. (6.57) There Are Differences Between Universities

Number five, there are differences between universities.

While we are talking about studying medicine in Ireland, there are differences between the different areas that you could study.

So for example, I study in University College Cork, and the way our course is structured is we have more lectures early on that are dedicated to specific subjects.

We have a little bit of small group learning, but if we were to compare that to somewhere like the University of Limerick, UL, they do a lot more of that small group learning and that problem-based learning type of approach.

So there are differences between the core structures.

Obviously there's differences in terms of location, in terms of your own preference.

For example, if you live in Dublin, you're going to have higher rent than you will and Cork or Limerick, but it depends on where you're coming from, what you're used to.

Do you want to live in a bigger city or a smaller city?

Do you want a campus that's very central in the city or further away?

They're all things that depend on your own personal preference, but it is worth being aware that there are differences between specific core structures and the different hospitals that you will be placed in, et cetera.

And as a result, you should do research on those topics before you commit to any given university.

6. (8.05) You Will Get Plenty Of Actual Experience

Number six is experience.

And I bring this up to say that medicine is not just a textbook degree.

So while you will spend a lot of time, particularly in the first couple of years, just staring at books, just staring at lectures, learning things off, physiology, anatomy, pathology, biochemistry, et cetera.

Once you're past that stage, once you're into your second or your third year, depending on whether you're a direct entry or graduate entry medicine, you get to get an insight into what it's like in the real world.

You have plenty of hospital placements, plenty of GP placements.

And as a result, you do get that kind of practical experience and that exposure to different fields within medicine.

So while we're talking about medicine and becoming a doctor, what that means totally varies depending on the specialty.

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So you get the opportunity to sample surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, GP, et cetera.

So there are many different fields within medicine.

You get to sample those as a student, which is a real privilege because once you get out into the real world, you have far more responsibilities when you are working.

So anytime you are maybe sampling a new field, you also have to take on all the responsibilities.

Whereas when you're a student, you do have the luxury of being able to shadow, being able to see how things work, how consultants are working through different problems, et cetera, without having that same level of responsibility.

So you do get experience, you do get exposure to a broad range of clinical environments, and that's one of the really nice things about medicine compared to some other degrees where you might not necessarily to get any exposure to the real world.

7. (9.48) Medicine Is Fun

And finally, number seven, medicine is fun.

Despite all of the study that goes in, despite all the work, all of the hours, you can have a lot of fun while studying medicine.

I mentioned already, there's plenty of opportunity for free time, for engaging in hobbies that are meaningful to you.

And obviously that's a big part of it, but also medicine itself can be fun.

So as for example, some of the things that you might be exposed to are different medical societies.

Personally, in my first year, I got involved with something called SIM Wars, which is emergency medicine simulation training.

And despite the fact that it sounds a little bit nerdy getting involved in kind of extracurricular stuff that's also medicine related, it was a lot of fun because it allowed you to learn in a practical environment with friends, meeting new people, but also getting competitive and being able to learn in a way that actually is fun.

So that's a huge bonus.

And that's another thing about medicine in general is that it is interesting.

Okay? So one of the great things is that when you're learning things that you know apply to real world situations, it's just a bit more interesting.

I find that fun anyway.

If you're thinking about studying medicine, you probably find that fun.

So sometimes when you're doing a degree in biomedical science, for example, if you're just studying biochemistry for the sake of learning biochemistry, it's very different to studying biochemistry with the intent of applying that knowledge or thinking about where might it apply in certain disease states.

And while you may never encounter those disease states in the real world, it is interesting to be able to apply that knowledge.

So I've always found that to be a fun element on something that doesn't seem too fun, but also there's just fun involved in being exposed to new people, being in college with people who are all motivated towards a certain goal.

So that is one of the great things about Graduate Entry Medicine in particular is that everyone has been through the process of college previously.

Everyone has decided very consciously that this is what I want to do.

I want to go into medicine.

People aren't just doing it for the sake of it.

So as a result, you're all dedicated enough towards the process of becoming a doctor and that goal of becoming a Doctor, and there's something that's pretty fun about that too.

That's it from me. They are the seven things that I think are worth knowing before you begin studying medicine in Ireland.

Of course, depending on where you're coming from, there are many other things you might want to be aware of, such as the process after graduating from medicine.

So thank you very much for watching.

From me, Gary McGowan, student at University College Cork, and I will see you next time.

Let me know in the comments your thoughts on going to Medical school and the considerations I've given above - let's chat there!

Oh, and please Like this article to let me know you enjoyed it - thank you!

About the author

  • Gary McGowan
    Medical Student

Gary McGowan is a Medical Student at University College Cork, Ireland. Gary also has a BSc in Physiotherapy, as well as various qualifications in the field of Personal Training. Outside of university, he is the owner of Triage Method, a health & fitness company dedicated to the provision of science-based coaching and education.

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  • Gary McGowan
    Medical Student

About the author

  • Gary McGowan
    Medical Student

Gary McGowan is a Medical Student at University College Cork, Ireland. Gary also has a BSc in Physiotherapy, as well as various qualifications in the field of Personal Training. Outside of university, he is the owner of Triage Method, a health & fitness company dedicated to the provision of science-based coaching and education.

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