Career Counselling for Medical Students
CSS or Central Superior Services Exam is considered the most distinguished examination in Pakistan. Candidates who pass the exam and the subsequent interview are inducted into the Central Superior Services of Pakistan. For the last 15 years, majority of the people who topped this exam have been doctors.
One of Pakistan’s few English language stand up comedians is a Doctor. There are numerous doctors studying Public Health on Fulbright Scholarship in the United States. The creators of one of the most prolific political satire show on cable TV is a doctor. There are other notable examples in the Television Industry including anchors and Talk Show hosts. All of this points to one simple conclusion: Most Medical Students do not know what they’ll end up doing after they graduate.
The concept of Career Counselling is non-existent in our country. Generally, career counseling is done to aid young adults to choose a particular profession. This has to be considered on Undergraduate level as well because the field of medicine is multi-disciplinary and it is tough for an undergraduate to equip him/herself with enough knowhow to decide about the future. Even people who want to stay in the profession require career guidance.
After graduation, a medical student can opt to pursue post-graduate studies either in Pakistan (FCPS route), the USMLE route, PLAB, AMC or similar entrance exams for studying in different countries. There are other options including Diplomas in medical specialties, CSS, MPH and much more. One of our Professors used to say, “You guys need to decide what you want to do with your life and keep different options open, as I left my city to become a Heart Surgeon but ended up in the field of Forensic Medicine”.
In Pakistan, the issue is compounded by the societal norm of parents deciding their children’s’ future. Most desi parents only have three or four career options for their kids; Doctor, Engineer, Banker/Accountant and if all else fails, Army. When a student enters the first year of Medical School, he is fresh-spirited and not ready for a long haul. In fact, it takes a person at least 10 years, if everything goes according to plan, to become a specialist doctor in any field of medicine.
Then there is the issue of immense mental pressure on medical students to pass their exams and all this emotional scarring doesn’t do any wonders for the emotional wellbeing of a person. In short, becoming a doctor is a big investment, physically, mentally and financially. There is an acute need of career counseling in high schools and medical schools, to make the life of students easier. The current practice of leaving everything to luck is not taking us anywhere. A lot of potential artists, writers, businessmen, lawyers and social scientists are part of Pakistan’s medical schools, due to the absence of career counselling.
Pakistan is a country of more than 180 million people. The need for more doctors will remain intact for at least another two decades, but like every other job market, saturation would ensue, keeping in mind the number of doctors being manufactured in China and Eastern Europe these days. The days of having three or four career options are over. There are much more career opportunities in our country than there were ten years ago and situation will remain like this for the foreseeable future.
Long-term planning in that regard coupled with introduction of career counselling should be made compulsory in public as well as private institutes. A nation does not require services of doctors, engineers, accountants and soldiers only; other fields are just as necessary for development. The need for socio-economic diversity is what fuels the fire of progress and development across all sectors in a country.
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