The grim reality of medical students in India

We are all here, young doctors with white coats, ready to serve the country irrespective of what society thinks of doctors, we are here to save you all, to heal your pain, to cure it. We just expect the world around us to remember that we are humans entering early adulthood having limits to every aspect of ours!

The grim reality of medical students in India
Image use for representational purposes only

“The medical fraternity is like a public toilet, the ones outside are waiting eagerly to enter it and the ones in it want to exit it.”

I feel really sorry to start with this bitter metaphor, but reality is always hard to digest.

In awe if the idea of serving mankind and saving human lives, all of us enter this contrasting world of the medical school by clearing one of the most toughest exams in India – the NEET.

So here are the best minds from all the junior colleges, ready to be white coat superheroes! But this honeymoon phase is over, as soon as we enter the dissection hall with formalin in the air and 15-20 naked dead bodies lying there, waiting for us to cut them and learn human anatomy.

The real struggle begins, as 17-year-olds we struggle on an emotional level , then in the 2nd year, we enter the wards, initially the agony and pain the patient goes through, scars our mind to some extent, we feel like consoling the crying young lady who has just lost her husband, with two small clueless kids around her.

But then comes a day, when we are exiting the mess after a heavy meal and a blood wrapped body of a child who is almost dead lies on the stretcher. And still you manage to walk through silently without letting your heartbeat rise, ignoring the stream of thoughts in your sensitive mind.

This process of becoming emotionally intelligent needs to be dealt in a proper and tender manner; this should be a part of the curriculum. This was the point of explaining the above incident.

We should be taught how to convert our sensitive, caring thoughts into emotionally intelligent, goal driven rapid actions as medicos.

This brings me to the main point of discussion, the current medical education system and the challenges faced by us.

The grim reality of medical students in India
Mrunmayee Mangale

In the complete course of 4.5years, we are taught to write answers or speak-up the answers in the vivas, to score and pass in an exam which holds no more importance in the further selection process for postgraduate courses and moreover holds no specific areas for patient care.

Exams lack real situation simulations and practical approaches towards cases. They check only one thing, the capacity to mug up the known facts, as any other exam in India would.

For a person to be a successful surgeon, s/he should be physically, mentally, emotionally fit, should have good fine motor skills, excellent eye hand coordination and deep understanding of the knowledge and a keen interest.

And what does our PG-NEET judge us upon? A rank of 2-3 digits in all India among 1,17,000 doctors competing for 25,000 postgraduate seats after studying relentlessly for a year or two and taking a gap year at the age of 24 is what will fetch you the desires seat of Masters in surgery.

Did I just jump from being a graduate to grabbing a seat; I almost forgot to tell you about the bond in between and an internship too!

A medical intern is no more than a full time assistant to the residents and doctors on duty. A person who needs to learn how to manage different clinical cases, in reality is busy all day with doing menial jobs than actually gaining concrete experience.

With so much of work, we get quite a lot in return Rs 6,000 per month for a hectic duty of 7 hours a day and a continuous 36-hour emergency duty once in a week.

Thanks to the recent strike by the Association of State Medical Interns (ASMI) and they have raised the stipend to 10,000 per month enough for a 24-year-old to not ask for extra money from home.

By this time, our friends have started their careers and we are put into a compulsory rural bond service of one year. We are not against going into rural areas and working over there, why would we be?

But the basis of compelling us into this bond is that we are studying on the taxpayers’ money, government is investing in to us! Well, is the taxpayers’ money not used for IITs, NSD and other institutions?

Are those graduates imposed with such bonds, which if not fulfilled will make you pay 10 lack rupees as compensation?

If not they, then why us? Maybe because the doctor-patient ratio in India is poor, at 1:11,000, maybe government is investing very less from the GDP into health sector and is failing miserably to create peripheral health services or the schemes are not well-planned and executed!

Whatever is the case, I’m either spending a year as a medical officer in a Primary Health Centre with poor quarter facilities, trying to figure out how I’m supposed to study for PG entrance exam, manage the PHC, emergencies etc and all this with the background of hardcore internship or paying 10 lakhs to the government!

Kudos to our will to sustain in such an unorganised, uncertain and confusing situation and still hoping to crack the so called PG entrance with a good score (in 2nd attempt at least).

Cribbing and complaining is not intended. Awareness of the current problems faced by medical students, their magnitude and can there be ways to solve what is concerning all of us!

A very Happy Doctors Day to our seniors and teachers who are making this process a bit less painful.

The author is a final year MBBS student from B.J. Govt Medical College, Pune.