Brain Drain: Follow your dreams, wherever they might take you

IFMSA 2018.png

(IFMSA, 2016)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Catarina Pais Rodrigues, a 4th year medical student from Portugal. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Every aspiring medical student knows the drill. For long hours you sit at a desk and study hard. We all know that medicine is very competitive and only those who exceed themselves get in.

When entering medical school, we are regarded as to be pursuing prestigious studies and a respected career, we are setting out to be medical doctors. Hence, most people think the hassle ends. And, unfortunately, even our politicians think so…

Now you are probably wondering, I’m going to talk about Medical Education. How medical students learn from curriculums, teaching and evaluation methods that haven’t changed for decades (even though everything else about Medicine has). Well, I am, but in a much broader sense. Let me ask you, what does it take to become a medical doctor?!

The answer is not Medical School, nor it is 4 to 6 years. I’m sorry to disappoint. To become a doctor to the best of their abilities, the one in whose hands you’d leave your relative’s life  in, you need 10 to 12 years.

It’s not that we don’t have the knowledge once we finish 6 years of studies is that we need to train, we need to see patients and further progress our studies in an area where we can be proficient enough to have your life in our hands.

Currently getting into a specialty maybe just as hard as getting into medical school, even though most countries are in need of doctors and we would very much like to be of help. There’s the other hassle.

With the freedom of movement and recognition of qualifications within the EU, we are witnessing an intensification of an already known phenomenon of doctor’s mobility. Romania, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have become attractive destinations for numbers of medical students that are unable to get a placement in their country of origin. One could argue this fact is a great possibility enhanced by our single market and a an advantage.

However, when you take a closer look you see that the countries these international students are coming from such as Germany or the United Kingdom are those in need of foreign trained doctors to overcome their shortages. Begging the question, do our politicians know it takes 10 to 12 years to become doctor?! Are these imbalances the result of poor management and lack of proper planning for the health workforce and health systems?

It’s time that everyone knows the drill and supports the health workforce. When we talk about doctors, we talk about the health of our people. We need the right number of doctors, in the right place with the right skills for a healthier Europe. We need our countries to understand their needs for the health workforce, plan their medical schools and specialty access accordingly for a stronger Europe.

It’s cool to move abroad, but only when you want to, not when you have to and, especially, not when they need you.

About the author

Catarina Pais Rodrigues is a 4th year medical student from Portugal. She is an active member of IFMSA. Since entering Medical School, Catarina has voiced the importance of a quality medical education, having represented her colleagues at local, national and international level. The Health Workforce has been an interest area of work given the dimension and multiple aspects of the matter that surpasses all sectors.

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