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Balancing Work and Medical School

Working while studying medicine

by , 29 April, 2016
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GAMSAT Intensive Weekend and Mock ExamYou might be surprised to realise that some medical schools expressly deter students from working while studying medicine.  But if you live in the real world, you’ll probably need to bring home some bacon.

Even if you are living at home while studying, you probably (hopefully) can’t get away with asking your parents for a fiddy to fund your Saturday night shenanigans (this is also assuming you aren’t in receipt of Government funds, in which case they would of course be going towards acquiring textbooks and not Fruity Lexia*) so you probably still need to read this blog post. 


Admittedly though, studying medicine is kind of full on. Being the perennial student that I am, I think I’ve got some solid reference points on which to base this claim, and medicine definitely doesn’t lend itself as easily to the type of hideous bar work I did during my previous study.  So what is one to do? 

For those currently working
If you’re from an allied health background and have a foot in the shift-work door, you’re sorted.  There are heaps of nurses and physios who keep up some shift work or work weekends (there are plenty of opportunities in aged care) and as a plus, they’re all the better clinically for it.  Alternatively, if you’re from a non-science background and have a skill set that will allow you to do casual or consulting work for your organisation (or privately) that can work really well too.

For those currently studying full time
If however, you’ve got no professional experience, my advice (which you’re probably coming to realise is at best, deeply anecdotal) is to find something sooner rather than later that you think will be sustainable while studying medicine (seriously, ditch the bar job).  That way, you can secure something ahead of the start-of-year-student-job-hunt season and accrue enough brownie points to be able to ask for more flexible shifts come exam time next year.

If you’re not working at all, you should really think about getting a job.  Firstly, to save up some moolah because if you’re not working you’re probably looking at some pretty crappy holiday and elective choices (you will definitely want to make the most of holidays before you get into the hospital system and have admin make your life and roster a living nightmare).  Secondly, to save up some moolah because you’re looking at 4 more years of study and by that time your friends will be older and have jobs and be able to do nice things and you’ll be stuck having your birthday at Thai La Ong**.  Finally, if you’re thinking of applying to a portfolio school, jobs lend themselves nicely to the leadership/teamwork sections of the portfolio (I’ll be covering this in another blog post)!

Types of jobs to think about
looking for a job while studying in medical school
Ideal jobs are those that have a bit of flexibility (so you can taper off during exams and take some time off during holidays) and have shifts that fit around uni (i.e. evening and weekend work).  A couple of obvious eligible industries are hospitality (think cafes, restaurants and if you have to, pubs) and retail.  And of course there’s always tutoring (I swear I’m better at that than I am writing these blog posts!) which if done privately allows you to work when you want.  If you’re tutoring for children you’ll need a working with children check, and a criminal check is also good to have.  Some other jobs worth considering are medical typing/editing (there are online agencies for this) reception work (real estates and medical centres are usually open on Saturdays) and casual work with your university.

Also, think about seasonal or one-off  things you can do to earn extra cash.  For example, polling staff for elections, enrolment jobs at uni or Christmas jobs at shopping centres.  Ask around – chances are you’ll know someone who has scored a sweet job doing something obscure and they’re often the things that pay ridiculously well (eg. fancy putting up Christmas decorations in a shopping centre after hours for several hundred bucks?).

Get started now
As with most of my advice, and as is also the case with GAMSAT preparations, I’ll conclude by saying plan ahead.  Generally, it’s much harder to work during the clinical years, particularly if they involve rural placements.  So having some savings in the bank, or at least not going (further) into debt will make those final years a lot easier to bear.

Keep an eye out on the blog for more unsolicited and unqualified financial advice.

* If you actually buy goon for a night out, shame on you.  There are plenty of amazing cheap Australian wines available.  Be better.  In fact, here’s one (ok, it’s not Australian) that I can personally vouch for that got me through my undergrad - Cono Sur -  and as a bonus, you will actually be allowed into a restaurant with.  Also, if the makers of Cono Sur read this blog, I will happily accept free wine now.

**Don’t get me wrong, I love that place and have been a regular diner and Pad Kee Mao consumer for over a decade (seriously, should I start asking for endorsements?).  Also, Thai La Ong, please don’t sue me.  As per this blog post I’m a poor student and need to save my $6.50 for your tasty lunch specials.