What is a doctor?

A doctor is a medical specialist who treats patients. Doctors diagnose, treat, and advise people with illnesses, ailments, and injuries. Their many responsibilities include patient examination, collecting patient information, performing diagnostic tests, and directly treating diseases. For virtually every major organ system in the human body, there is a specific type of doctor. For example: ophthalmologist, dentist, cardiologist, rheumatologist, and dermatologist.

The origin of the profession can be traced back to more than 25,000 years ago when the first "healers" were found on cave paintings in the territory of modern France. The images showed people using plants for medicinal purposes. This is the first known example of medical knowledge transferred through tribes.

Doctor's salary in different countries

Country/regionMin. doctor's salary/yearAvg. doctor salary/yearNurseDentistVeterinarianSurgeon
USA68,922 USD105,968 USD73,550 USD133,941 USD95,000 USD395,350 USD
United Kingdom39,563 USD81,784 USD31,885 USD102,098 USD43,907 USD92,442 USD
Australia44,460 USD77,961 USD48,973 USD65,725 USD43,773 USD101,258 USD
Canada50,943 USD107,039 USD57,163 USD199,406 USD56,869 USD140,831 USD
Germany42,408 USD114,935 USD31,613 USD58,005 USD54,524 USD68,608 USD
France45,974 USD132,122 USD34,910 USD125,677 USD74,088 USD223,617 USD
Russian Federation342 USD/month455 USD/month342 USD/month749 USD/month455 USD/month612 USD/month
Czech Republic28,631 USD75,098 USD30,665 USD75,620 USD38,279 USD258,310 USD
China41,872 USD114,031 USD38,066 USD115,521 USD56,105 USD139,353 USD
Singapore64,771 USD162,593 USD28,548 USD72,711 USD35,240 USD89,853 USD

All data are approximate and are given for an overview of the earnings of doctors in different countries[1].

Advantages of the medical profession

  • A noble cause. The doctor is one of the most important and crucial professions for society. The physician does not just sort through pieces of paper or do small things, he heals and puts the sick on their feet, and often saves lives. We rely on doctors in the most critical and extreme situations, trusting them with our health. Physicians can rightfully be proud of their work and feel a sense of social importance.
  • Psychic income. Every day, doctors save lives and help people. Their work brings relatively visible and quick results. In addition to the joy of improving the health of patients, doctors receive sincere gratitude.
  • Demand and career opportunities. Doctors are always in demand, and even more so at the present time, since in many countries there is an acute shortage of medical professionals. A good doctor will find a job both in the countryside and in the city. If you wish, you can retrain to meet the requirements of other countries and find a job anywhere in the world. In addition, physicians have the opportunity to climb the career ladder, the top of which may be the head of a department or the chief physician of a hospital.
  • Diversity in career options. Doctors have a huge number of specializations. If you love children, then pediatrics is a great choice. If you have nerves of steel and steady hands, then you can try yourself in surgery. The perfect match for animal lovers is veterinary medicine, and for researchers of the human condition — psychiatry. Moreover, the doctor has a wide choice of places to work at. For example, obstetricians deliver in maternity hospitals, and ophthalmologists work in optics stores. Also, doctors can work in private clinics or open their own medical practice.
  • Intellectual work. Medicine is one of the most challenging but exciting sciences. It does not stand in place, so doctors constantly study new discoveries and materials, attend conferences, and learn all their lives. At medical faculties, students often have a hard time, but the interesting profession and knowledge are worth sleepless nights and crunches.
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Disadvantages of the medical profession

  • Responsibility and stress. There is a great responsibility on the shoulders of doctors because a medical error can lead to the loss of a patient's life. Doctors often have to quickly make important decisions on which the patient's health depends. Also, doctors are under pressure due to heavy workloads and night shifts. Stress and anxiety accompany medical professionals throughout their careers.
  • Long and difficult studies. Medical education could take anything from 4 to 14 years depending on the country and the program. In the classroom, a large amount of information is given, not just for pure understanding, but also for thorough memorization (for example, anatomy), especially during the first years. Much depends on the university, but in most cases it is practically impossible to skip classes, the only exception is being a donor or sickness, but in that case you must take additional tests or write papers. The study schedule, as a rule, has a lot of lectures, seminars, and electives. There is no time to rest after school either. However, if a student is passionate about the profession, then he will like to study and he will enthusiastically learn medicine.
  • Tough work schedule. Many doctors work night shifts, sometimes in a row. This not only reduces the amount of free time that can be spent with the family but also has a detrimental effect on health[2]. Often, doctors have to do house call visits, treat people outside of working hours due to emergencies, and always be available.
  • Low salaries in some countries. Despite the fact that doctors are the backbone of state health care, plenty of countries don’t reward their work and knowledge properly. For example, the average salary of doctors in the regions of Russia is 200-400 USD per month. Because of this, doctors have to work several shifts and leave to seek employment in other areas[3].
  • The danger of the profession. The main danger in medical practice is the treatment of patients with contagious diseases. The risk of infection is extremely high, as doctors are on the frontlines of the fight against influenza, respiratory infections, hepatitis, and other illnesses. For example, this is confirmed by the independent statistic "Memory List", which is maintained by physicians themselves. So, in Russia 631 doctors died from COVID-19. In Moscow alone, medical workers accounted for 1-1.5% of all fatalities[4]. In addition, Russian hospitals became the hotspots of the coronavirus, and doctors themselves — the main carriers of it[5]. Other infections are spread through accidentally piercing skin with needles or contact with body fluids. It so happens that patients themselves pose a physical threat, for example, in psychiatric wards, patients with mental conditions often attack the attending physicians.

Medical specialties

Medicine is as vast and multifaceted as the intricacies of human anatomy. Each doctor has a specific specialization. Universities may include the following departments:

General Medicine — a program, after which it is possible to obtain a narrow specialization: surgeon, therapist, cardiologist, pediatrician, obstetrician, etc. The course usually lasts 6 years.

Pediatrics is the science of treating the child's body (from the Greek "paidos" — a child, "jatreia" — healing). Pediatricians not only treat and prevent diseases of little patients, but also monitor their growth and development, and advise parents on proper care. Pediatricians, like other doctors, must be able to diagnose diseases by symptoms. As a rule, parents of babies are frequent visitors to pediatricians. Doctors check the weight and height of babies, their general condition, and teach parents how to properly feed them.

To work as a pediatrician, it is important to love children and be considerate, because diagnosing a child is difficult due to the child’s inability to explain what is wrong. This specialization also could be difficult because children are restless and often afraid of doctors. For pediatricians, stress resistance and emotional stability are required.

Surgery is a medical field that uses surgical, manual and instrumental techniques on a person to treat disease or injury. The surgeon is responsible for the preoperative diagnosis of the patient, for the surgery, as well as for the postoperative care and treatment.

During surgery, the surgeon makes critical decisions regarding the health, safety, and well-being of the patient. For such a profession it is necessary to have nerves of steel, emotional endurance, patience, calmness, and the ability to control the situation in extreme conditions. Physical endurance is also important: operations last for hours and surgeons spend all this time on their feet.

Nursing is qualified patient care. Nurses ensure that patient care is complete. In a way their work combines heart and mind. To become a nurse, you must like people unconditionally. Even the origin of the profession was born out of mercy and a desire to help those in need. The first nurse was Florence Nightingale, who went to field hospitals with 38 assistants during the Crimean War.

The range of responsibilities depends on the medical institution: from making important decisions in treatment and assistance during operations to sterilizing instruments, affixing vaccinations, writing reports and therapeutic massage.

This list of specialties will help you to determine the direction of your medical training.

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How to become a doctor?

To become a doctor, you need a university degree. Colleges, in turn, issue the qualifications of a nurse, paramedic, technician, etc. A doctor deals with the human body, therefore an interest in biology, anatomy, and chemistry is a key quality for a future physician. It is also important to study well, and to love studying in general, because on average it lasts more than 7 years.

Vocational medical education

Usually, in colleges you can obtain the qualifications of a nurse, paramedic, medical laboratory technician, obstetrician, dental technician, pharmacist, dental hygienist, etc.

Medical trade and vocational colleges in the USA, for example, mostly offer associate's degrees and certificates. They certify personal fitness specialists, surgical technologists, pharmacy technicians and medical assistants. You will also find veterinary studies combined with agriculture as well as health related and dental hygiene programs at vocational colleges in the UK and Canada.

There are equivalent opportunities in other countries as well, but in general colleges are not a frequent choice of international students. Prices vary a lot depending on the country and city where the college is located but in any case studying there costs several times cheaper than at the university.

However, while going to college can save you time and money, becoming a doctor requires a university degree.

Higher education of a doctor

It takes a long time to obtain a medical education. Much depends on the country of study. For admission, besides the English language certificate, you must pass additional exams, for example, MCAT — in the USA and Canada, BMAT, GAMSAT, UKCAT in Great Britain, UMAT in Australia.

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Medical programs of the best universities 2020

UniversityBachelor’s / yearCountry
1Harvard University64,984 USDUSA
2University of Oxford43,424 USDGreat Britain
3University of Cambridge74,070 USDGreat Britain
4Stanford University80,312 USDUSA
5Johns Hopkins University56,500 USDUSA
6Karolinska Medical Institute 24,814 USDSweden
7University of California at Los Angeles 23,687 USDUSA
8University College London47,335 USDUK
9.Yale University42,120 USDUSA
10.Imperial College London56,154 USDUK

Requirements for admission to a medical program

The requirements for admission vary by country and university. Usually, the following is required:

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What qualities does a doctor need?

A doctor is a difficult and profession which comes with great responsibility, obtaining which involves no less difficult and long studies. Being a doctor is a life calling. Therefore, dedicating your life to the medical profession is a serious step that must be taken consciously.

The main quality a doctor must have is the desire to help others. Physicians are distinguished by humanism, and even to some extent altruism, combined with high morals. Honesty, decency, responsibility, intelligence, kindness, reliability, integrity, lack of self-interest, and the ability to keep one's word are important to a medical professional. They are conditioned by deontology — the discipline of medical ethics and the norms of interaction between a doctor and colleagues and patients.

Other necessary qualities for future doctors are good memory, analytical mind, the ability to make quick decisions, endurance, determination, high demands from oneself and others, a tendency to take responsibility, stress resistance, emotional stability, leadership, empathy, and sociability.

Love for people is also important, since doctors constantly listen to complaints, communicate, and provide moral support to patients. It is important to be patient and considerate in order to build trust and not make the sick person's situation worse. However, there are specializations for which communication with people is not necessary, for example, pathologists.

Finally, doctors deal with human secretions, bodies and organs, so disgust and blood intolerance, and even more so fainting at the sight of unpleasantness, may become major roadblocks when becoming a doctor. To test your resilience, you can watch videos of autopsies or operations on YouTube.

It is important to understand that a doctor is not just a profession, but a life stance. Therefore, humanism is a defining personality trait of a physician.

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Where do doctors work?

Doctors work in both public and private medical institutions. They are clinics, hospitals, trauma centers, ambulance and emergency rooms, psychiatric wards, medical centers, research institutes. Pediatricians often have their own offices in kindergartens and schools. Some doctors work for themselves and open private clinics or practices.

Typically, doctors work irregularly with night shifts and emergency calls. The responsibilities of physicians depend on the specialization and place of work. The main activities include making rounds and examining patients, conducting diagnostics, prescribing treatment and drugs, and performing surgeries. Also, doctors are engaged in administrative work: they keep records and patient medical histories, write prescriptions and issue medical certificates. Outside of work hours, doctors improve their knowledge, read medical literature and magazines.

Famous doctors

The field of medicine has witnessed such prominent historical figures as Hippocrates, Avicenna, Galen, Paracelsus, Pirogov, Botkin and many others, thanks to whom this science was born and became what it is today. However, in addition to them, there were a huge number of outstanding doctors, whose names are not known by many. Some lesser known, but still outstanding medical scientists are described below.

Margaret Anne Bulkley is the world's first female surgeon to get a medical degree, Margaret had to hide her gender under the name of James Barry. The talented Englishwoman graduated from the University of Edinburgh and passed all the necessary exams to become a surgeon. Margaret served as a medical assistant in the British army and was exiled to Cape Town, South Africa. There she performed the first caesarean section in Africa, after which both mother and baby survived. Until the end of her life, everyone believed that Margaret was a man; the public and colleagues learned about her real sex only after her death. Based on the life of a brave and strong woman, documentaries were shot, as well as books and articles were written.

Andreas Vesalius is the "father of anatomy". He became one of the pioneers in the study of the structure of the body by dissecting the deceased. Descended from a family of doctors and medics, Vesalius showed an interest in medicine from an early age. The future anatomist quickly grasped languages ​​and medical theory. At that time, the anatomy was at an early stage of development, and Vesalius, along with his friend, stole corpses of the executed in order to conduct autopsies. Thanks to his successes, he became a professor at 23. The doctor wrote the invaluable work On the structure of the human body. It was thanks to Vesalius that modern anatomy became possible.

Leila Denmark is a pediatrician from America, one of the developers of the pertussis vaccine. She kept taking patients until she was 103 and was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the oldest practicing physician. At the time of her death, she was one of the five oldest living people. Denmark is the personification of a real pediatrician: the doctor attended little patients at any time of the day and whenever necessary.

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