Unsure whether to join as a Medical Officer

#1
Hello,

I've just finished my first year at medical school and I am interested in applying for a medical cadetship, however, I'm not sure army life is for me and if there's anyone here who could answer my very naive questions, I'd be most obliged. I'm aware many of them will sound exceptionally dim and stupid, but they are the things I am curious about.

My main qualm is that I'm not sure I fit the 'army type personality'. I'm a reasonably introverted person, and you certainly wouldn't describe me as a 'lad', I do not take any interest in getting drunk or laddish behaviour. In saying this I'm not trying to imply for a moment that I am 'above it' in any way, merely that it's something I don't get much enjoyment from and find it well out of my comfort zone. Even at 19, my idea of a good night is staying in and relaxing - not necessarily on my own, but I just wish to illustrate the point I'm not much for clubbing etc. However I wouldn't describe myself as anti-social, at all, and very much enjoy spending time with people. I was head boy at my school and liked to think I got on with nearly everybody and didn't have any 'enemies'.

I find the idea of killing any other human being abhorrent - is this odd for anyone in the Army? I mean, I'm not trying to imply that troops can't wait to get out and kill someone, far, far from it and I do think that it is meet to do so if there are no other options, but I do think it should be an absolute last resort - as my ultimate profession dictates - I have an intrinsic desire to help fix people, not to kill them.

A few other questions: Do medical officers have to go on patrol? What exactly would they be doing on tour? Is trauma medicine a must if you join?

I understand my questions are very stupid and ignorant, but if anyone could be kind enough to put any of them to rest I would be most appreciative.

Peter
 
#4
So unsure, you posted it twice on the same site.

Try your local Careers Information Office.
 

Grumblegrunt

LE
Book Reviewer
#9
join a TA unit if you arent sure, if nothing else they pay your insurance and subscriptions to the bma (or at least they used to) that will break you in gently.
 
#10
Hello, assuming this is genuine:
I am a regular MO.
In response to your questions. Firstly the number of cadetships has been reduced in line with changed manning priorities and are therefore even harder to get.
Secondly: You will have to undertake to go on patrol and carry weapons. You will be asked to sign a contract to this effect and that you understand you may have to use lethal force. MOs do patrol (although considerably less often than the CMTs)
Trauma is at the very centre of what we do and what we excel at. However it is not all we do. We have microbiologists and infectious disease specialists, cardiologists and opthalmologists, GPs, sports and exercise, occupational and public health medicine, although how many of these will still be DMS tasks in 10 years time is up for debate.
So you do not need to be a trauma junkie although it does help.
By the sound of it you need to consider this much more. Speak to RAMC Officer Recruiting and see if you can arrange a acquaintance visit. Don't worry if it is not for you it is a special type of medicine just as orthopaedic surgery isn't for everyone.
 
#11
Secondly: You will have to undertake to go on patrol and carry weapons. You will be asked to sign a contract to this effect and that you understand you may have to use lethal force. MOs do patrol (although considerably less often than the CMTs)

Is this correct and how often does it happen? It sounds like a mis-allocation of resources to me but presumably there is a sensible rationale for it.
 
#13
Thank you very much for the sincere responses.

Hello, assuming this is genuine:
I am a regular MO.
In response to your questions. Firstly the number of cadetships has been reduced in line with changed manning priorities and are therefore even harder to get.
Secondly: You will have to undertake to go on patrol and carry weapons. You will be asked to sign a contract to this effect and that you understand you may have to use lethal force. MOs do patrol (although considerably less often than the CMTs)
Trauma is at the very centre of what we do and what we excel at. However it is not all we do. We have microbiologists and infectious disease specialists, cardiologists and opthalmologists, GPs, sports and exercise, occupational and public health medicine, although how many of these will still be DMS tasks in 10 years time is up for debate.
So you do not need to be a trauma junkie although it does help.
By the sound of it you need to consider this much more. Speak to RAMC Officer Recruiting and see if you can arrange a acquaintance visit. Don't worry if it is not for you it is a special type of medicine just as orthopaedic surgery isn't for everyone.
"MOs do patrol"
I keep hearing conflicting information about this, some say they do not whilst others say they do. However I will take your word obviously, since you are a MO. This may be a stupid question, but would it be exactly the same as a patrol with an infantry officer and infantry soldiers? I ask this since I saw a documentary on iPlayer with just that - simply so I can gauge what it would be like.

"Trauma is at the very centre of what we do and what we excel at"
So, if you are sent on tour - do you have a choice about what kind of work you do? Say, would all MOs treat emergency injuries, say, someone has been injured by an IED? Or is it a case of there being doctors on tour who do primary care (i.e. GP work) and those who do secondary care (i.e. treating emergency injuries?)

Thank you very much for your help.

Just one other point - if anyone could explain what the main differences between being a MO in the RAF and the Army would be, I'd be most appreciative.
 
#14
In the current main operation (Afghanistan) you may go out as part of a patrol with infantry and other attached arms. So yes it may be similar to things you have seen on TV. You do need to be fit though as typical patrol weights for me and the other MOs were in the regions of 55kg of extra weight.

One of the key parts of being a forces doctor is being adaptable. Disease and Non Battle injury will always eclipse trauma in terms of sheer numbers, but trauma is where lives are lost or changed. All GPs will come across traumatic injuries during their tours, as will hospital based General Physicians. All MOs are trained to deal with the initial phase of trauma resuscitation (BATLS course) and expected to ensure that their CMTs and Team Medics are also capable to do so.

A year after finishing my F2 year I was working effectively as a single handed GP in a foreign country advising on latrine and water point construction, dealing with various animal infestations, overseeing the building of community health clinics and doing some basic clinical governance for them, as well as dealing with multiple casualty traumas and advising the CO on the employability of his soldiers with differing injuries.
It is nothing like being an NHS GP, it is varied and unpredictable. You are expected to know a bit about an awful lots of things even as a secondary care doctor we range far beyond the usual UK definitions of our specialties.

The other thing to consider is that we move around alot, often at short notice. To look after your patients/soldiers you need to be able to influence their commanders to believe that you are acting in everyones best interests. You therefore need to be dynamic, and get along with people well and easily. If you retreat into your shell under pressure you are not likely to be able to lead your team and provide your patients with the care they should expect and demand of you.
 
#15
In the current main operation (Afghanistan) you may go out as part of a patrol with infantry and other attached arms. So yes it may be similar to things you have seen on TV. You do need to be fit though as typical patrol weights for me and the other MOs were in the regions of 55kg of extra weight.

One of the key parts of being a forces doctor is being adaptable. Disease and Non Battle injury will always eclipse trauma in terms of sheer numbers, but trauma is where lives are lost or changed. All GPs will come across traumatic injuries during their tours, as will hospital based General Physicians. All MOs are trained to deal with the initial phase of trauma resuscitation (BATLS course) and expected to ensure that their CMTs and Team Medics are also capable to do so.

A year after finishing my F2 year I was working effectively as a single handed GP in a foreign country advising on latrine and water point construction, dealing with various animal infestations, overseeing the building of community health clinics and doing some basic clinical governance for them, as well as dealing with multiple casualty traumas and advising the CO on the employability of his soldiers with differing injuries.
It is nothing like being an NHS GP, it is varied and unpredictable. You are expected to know a bit about an awful lots of things even as a secondary care doctor we range far beyond the usual UK definitions of our specialties.

The other thing to consider is that we move around alot, often at short notice. To look after your patients/soldiers you need to be able to influence their commanders to believe that you are acting in everyones best interests. You therefore need to be dynamic, and get along with people well and easily. If you retreat into your shell under pressure you are not likely to be able to lead your team and provide your patients with the care they should expect and demand of you.
Thanks very much for your response. What you were doing after your F2 year sounds amazing and something I'd be really excited about doing. There are some huge pulls for me in the army - I think I'd really relish the variety and unpredictability that you simply don't get as an NHS GP. As I said, my father is in the RADC and I am quite used to, and enjoy, moving around a lot.

I'll be completely frank - I'm sure this is very damnable and shameful - but I think the real root of any of my qualms is the fact that I am scared about going on tour, going on patrol and, simply, dying. Of course no one wants to die but I err on it quite a lot. I'm scared of being a person who may have to kill another. I'm scared of flying in to an area where a soldier/officer has just been lost a leg and needs emergency evacuation and I'm the one responsible for treating him/her. Of course I'd do it and try my utmost, but looking now at it, I feel completely out of my depth and frightened at the thought of it, but I suppose one would having only done the first year of medical school. I know what I have written is very much non 'team player' and shameful of me but it's the honest truth of the matter.
 
#16
I'll be completely frank - I'm sure this is very damnable and shameful - but I think the real root of any of my qualms is the fact that I am scared about going on tour, going on patrol and, simply, dying. Of course no one wants to die but I err on it quite a lot. I'm scared of being a person who may have to kill another. I'm scared of flying in to an area where a soldier/officer has just been lost a leg and needs emergency evacuation and I'm the one responsible for treating him/her. Of course I'd do it and try my utmost, but looking now at it, I feel completely out of my depth and frightened at the thought of it, but I suppose one would having only done the first year of medical school. I know what I have written is very much non 'team player' and shameful of me but it's the honest truth of the matter.
Come on Peter, even a first year med student knows enough that fear is a response with a purpose! :) There is nothing shameful in being scared!

I think you have picked up the key here though with "only done the first year of medical school"?

As a doctor per se, you will make decisions on what you do, when you intervene, if you intervene, and how; and there will not always be a textbook 100% answer as to what is correct.

You will have to choose one priority over another and some of those decisions will be life or not decisions, and some of them may well be one life over another.

That in itself must be immensely scary for a first year med student, but will be less scary as you progress, and by the time you are qualified and hold that responsibility alone, will still get the adrenalin going, but in a way that drives you to perform at your best.

Similarly many scary situations are made less so with a fuller knowledge as to what is going on, wth supportand with experience.
 
#17
Well you don't need to apply yet. Park the idea for a while, get on with Med School and see how you develop. Being the sole doctor is not for everyone, but you are too junior to know yet whether it is for you. Nothing wrong with that. I delayed until I'd been at Med School for 4 years before signing on the dotted line to make sure I was making the right decision, and you can always join after you've qualified.

You've thought about it, and obviously thought hard. Whilst patrolling was worrying (anybody who sets foot outside the wire and isn't concerned is lying) the things I think more about now are some of the decisions I made. You do grow into it.

See if you can get some exposure either through the TA or wait for a years and see how you feel then. You may discover a penchant for paediatric immunology or some other sub-specialty which isn't offered within the DMS, but which will stretch you and interest you.

Good Luck what ever you choose.
 
#18
Well you don't need to apply yet. Park the idea for a while, get on with Med School and see how you develop. Being the sole doctor is not for everyone, but you are too junior to know yet whether it is for you. Nothing wrong with that. I delayed until I'd been at Med School for 4 years before signing on the dotted line to make sure I was making the right decision, and you can always join after you've qualified.

You've thought about it, and obviously thought hard. Whilst patrolling was worrying (anybody who sets foot outside the wire and isn't concerned is lying) the things I think more about now are some of the decisions I made. You do grow into it.

See if you can get some exposure either through the TA or wait for a years and see how you feel then. You may discover a penchant for paediatric immunology or some other sub-specialty which isn't offered within the DMS, but which will stretch you and interest you.

Good Luck what ever you choose.
Thanks very much, I think your post makes a lot of sense. One thing I'm slightly confused on is that the army.mod website it says you should apply for your cadetship at the end of your first year latest, did you not get a cadetship but join later?
 
#19
No I began the application in 3rd year, intercalated and took the cadetship in my fourth year (so only got it for 2 years). The cadetship is not the be all and end of being in the RAMC. You can (and quite a few do) join later.

Since the number of cadetships has now dropped the application process may have changed slightly.
 
#20
There is always more reasons not to do something that to do something, go with your gut. I'm not a doctor. I am a newly qualified ODP hoping to specialise in trauma and join the TA/ Regs. 2 years ago when I first started my training I would never of dreamed of specialising in such an area. I was scared of assisting the anaesthetist for a hernia let alone bilateral broken femurs after an RTA. With experience and training this does not faze me nearly as much. I actually enjoy the intensity these kind of cases bring and feel it brings out the best in me.

Could be the same for you, don't panic too much yet. Follow your gut, that's what I did. Key thing is not to have any regrets, if you feel there is the slightest chance it is for you try it with the TA maybe and then move to the regs or sack it off as not for you. At least you would of given it a fair chance.

As for not wanting to kill, that is normal. As a medic in the RAF in Basra I did worry about being armed but you have to think someone maybe trying to kill you or your patient who is vulnerable and has no defence. I feel being armed is necessary to act in your own and patients best interests when in situations encountered in Iraq/ Afghanistan.

Nate
 

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