Is this it? (When Medicine disappoints) Part 1

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Do you still remember? The results of the decentralized selection are in. You choose medicine, and medicine chooses you. The expectations are mutually high: you are looking forward to the best six years of your life, followed by a career which you have dreamt of for years, and the study will ask a lot of you with its piles of books and difficult internships. But what happens if it is disappointing?

I spoke with five students that had doubts about the study. In this edition you will read the stories of the first three.


Pien van Hiejst

Stopped during M1 (KTC block 4)

Now studies Management, Policy Analysis and Entrepreneurship in Health & Life Sciences (VU, Amsterdam), second year

“It was just not making me happy”

I started doubting my choice during week 1 of my internships. I really second guessed a lot. In the end I didn’t even know what I was doubting about anymore. I first thought it had to do with the specialty, so I followed more internships. Sometimes it was alright, but I just could not see myself work with patients in the future, no matter the specialty I followed. Of course every now and then I had a nice conversation with a patient, but it didn’t fulfill me like it did for others. What also didn’t help was the shifts and workload that doctors had to deal with in the hospital. 

I talked a lot with friends and family, in my coach group and later also with a study coach. Back then I already decided before the first meeting that I wanted to stop with medicine. It felt weird, but also like a weight was off my chest. The coach helped me to explore other masters programs, and I thought it was great to have some guidance. 

In my current study, you get to choose between various paths. For example, I have courses about dealing with infectious diseases, or about giving advice for problems in the hospital. It is really broad and still has to do with healthcare, although it is more focused on the organisation of it. Yet sometimes I still miss the actual diseases and the puzzle of figuring out a diagnosis. In fact, I mainly miss that the master of medicine was so practical. I also miss the patient stories. Luckily I can still hear them through friends! However, I have really never regretted my choice. 

My advice: Talk about it with people, as much as you can. Don’t be scared of people’s reactions, because everyone was friendly with me when I brought it up. And if you stop, you get to enjoy more free time and sleep than before…


Jasper van der Aa

Studies Medicine M1, before that Sociology (University of Tilburg), Physiotherapy (Avans Hogeschool, Breda), and the Premaster of Medicine

“I counted down the days, hours, and minutes of my internships”

After about one and a half years of running my own physiotherapy practice, I decided to give it up. I had the feeling that I could only very rarely actually help patients. With medicine, I hoped that I could make a real difference in the health of people. 

However, I had a lot of trouble with the master. I found the internships, the way they are set up now, a really inefficient way to learn. It's tiring to start over again every time at a new department, having to constantly be enthusiastic was greuling, and the fact that doctors saw you as a chore rather than an opportunity to teach was very demotivating. 

Because of this, I constantly dragged my feet to the UMCG. It made me incredibly unhappy and I felt totally out of place in that awful white coat. It sometimes felt like I was the only one who had trouble with the internships. I rarely heard anything negative from my fellow students. Even worse, everyone seemed to find the internships not only great, but REALLY great. That made me feel like a black sheep. However, as I spoke to more students about this and got to know them better, I realized that others actually struggled with the internships every now and then too, in their own way. 

In addition, I often heard from people ‘Your internships are going to be your work later!’ I totally don’t agree with this statement. In my opinion, internships are not comparable to working as a doctor. I think the internships are terrible, but finally working always seemed better. And the only way to get to that point is to work through the present and make it through the difficult internship years. 

My advice: If you suddenly realize that your passion belongs somewhere else, then follow your heart. But don’t make a rash decision! Only if you're convinced that you won’t enjoy the occupation and the path there makes you unhappy, would I go looking for something else. 


Mark Folkertsma

Stopped after the bachelor

Now studies Chemistry (RUG), year 3

“I secretly missed the medical world a little bit”

When I graduated high school, I couldn’t decide between studying medicine or chemistry. Because I made it through the decentralized selection, I saw that as a sign to choose medicine. I had a lot of doubts in the first few months, but after half a year I found my place.

However, I noticed that the study was becoming much more practical, while I was more interested in the theory. I missed the basic subjects like physics and chemistry, and wanted to actually understand the formulas in the textbooks. Mainly, I found the molecular structure of drugs really intriguing. When the end of the bachelor was around the corner, I was still busy deciding which specialty I liked and if I actually saw myself as a doctor in the future. I decided to read books about career choices and in the end came to the conclusion that I wanted to give chemistry a chance. 

In the meantime, I have finished a bachelor degree in chemistry. I am interested in developing new drugs in the future; last year I followed a minor in Pharmacy because I secretly missed the medical world a little bit. I mostly found the group work and cooperation really nice in medicine. In general, medical students are really extroverted and remarkably social. Actually, that's necessary to get through medical school; you don’t have this sort of selection pressure in chemistry. 

My advice: If you have the feeling that you're always trying to fix your weaknesses, rather than improve your strengths, then that is an important sign to consider if you should stop. However, I advise you not to make this decision too impulsively.