While you may have completed your University education and pre-med in the UK, you can perform your medical practice in many other places all over the world. Two places that offer opportunities for UK-educated students to become doctors are the US and Canada.
Becoming a doctor in either of those countries carries its own hurdles that you wouldn't face with simply starting your career in the UK. The good news, however, is that these hurdles can be overcome with a solid understanding of the steps you need to take, along with some helpful tips you can throw into your schedule to make the road easier for you.
Read on to find out what it takes to become a doctor abroad, and how you can do it yourself.
Enrol in Pre-Med First
Rather than heading to the US or Canada straight after your high school studies, you will have to enrol in pre-med studies within the UK. Before you can receive admission to a US or Canada medical school, you must first complete three years of pre-clinical education within the UK.
The best preparation you can make at this stage is to find a pre-med program within a reputed university. Most will give you an education that's aligned with the further pursuit of a medical degree, and that approach can prove beneficial to you as you move abroad for your medical studies.
Not being interested in a straight-laced pre-med program doesn't hinder your chances. You stand the same chance of being admitted into a US or Canada medical school if you satisfy the requirement with another degree. A bachelor's in biology or chemistry works just as well to give you enough footing to study abroad.
The USMLE Step 1
With your pre-med qualification, you're able to apply for a certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, usually shortened to just ECFMG. A crucial part of getting this certification, and going forward with practising medicine abroad in general, is passing the USMLE Step 1.
It's a one-day examination that lasts eight hours in total. There are seven blocks, each an hour long, with short breaks separating them. While there's no exact number of questions you can expect to answer, the USMLE states that no block goes beyond 80 questions and all of them combined always have less than 280 questions.
All the questions are single-selection multiple-choice questions.
Preparing for the USMLE Step 1
The material you'll need to revise as you prepare is what you would have learned during your pre-med studies. More specifically, you'll respond to questions that fall under the eight traditionally defined disciplines:
- Behavioural Sciences
- Biostatistics and Epidemiology
Many UK students who have sat for the USMLE Step 1 have reported that there some information and techniques that may be regarded foundational to UK pre-med studies doesn't feature in the exam. Conversely, much of what you'll find in the exam may be a core feature of US and Canada pre-med learning but not so prominent in the UK system.
The bottom line here is that while you should hold the things you've learned in your pre-med studies close, be sure to prepare for the USMLE Step 1 in its own right. What you've learned so far will certainly prove useful, but it's best for you to approach this exam with the understanding that you'll have to pick up new concepts.
Tools to Help with Studying
In addition to the study tools and techniques you used during your pre-clinical studies, you can adopt new ones to help you grasp the material better. Tools like online flashcards can help you process information more easily, making it much less intimidating and burdensome to understand the full concepts you'll be expected to know.
Many online resources also come with interactive features, helping you to become more engaged as you strengthen your understanding of both the old and new concepts you have to know for the exam. Tools like this also make it easier to measure your progress and get an accurate idea of how prepared you are heading into the exam, as well as the areas you still need to brush up.
Not only can these help you in your preparation for the USMLE Step 1, they can also serve as useful aids far into your medical studies as you're presented with increasingly complex information. Some favoured options here include Amboss, Uword and Lecturio, which have become a staple for many medical students as they maximise the time they invest in their studies.
Challenges You May Face Close to Graduation
As your graduation date approaches, you'll have a different set of issues to face. One of the key ones is searching for a residency, which is a core issue when it comes to beginning your medical career in the US or Canada.
The biggest challenge is preparing for the interview. Some are carried out by phone, others via video interviews and more still are done traditionally in person. Whatever means is used, your goal is to show that, since coming to the US or Canada to study, you've developed a firm grasp of the medical practice scene there.
There are some questions that are common to residency programs, so fishing these out and crafting personalised answers that you can give offhand is a good strategy to make sure you impress. If you can use your prior life and educational experience in the UK to help you stand out, that's another point that can very well play out in your favour.
Studying medicine abroad is certainly an option that can help you widen your professional horizons. It's not without its challenges, however, and it comes with new obstacles you'll need to overcome. Pay close attention to the information shared above and you'll be much more prepared to get through those hurdles, all on the way to studying and practising abroad.
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