From computer screen to clinic
Working 70 hours a week in IT, Scott Wilsmore was 36 and had not forgotten his passion for medicine. But could he trade full-time work for full-time study?
“I never felt comfortable in IT,” Scott says. “My wife, Michelle, knew that I was bored, that I was not happy…I wanted something challenging, something rewarding. I was always interested in medicine, but I had a good job and I was caught up in it.”
Having acquired a Bachelor of Computer Engineering and spent 15 years in IT, the decision to move back to study wasn’t taken lightly by Scott.
“Michelle and I had a long chat about me moving to a career in medicine. Our first child was on the way. She knew that this was what I wanted to do for over ten years. She was very supportive…So I finally bit the bullet and applied for medical school.”
At first, Scott started his medical degree at the University of Newcastle, juggling his IT job part-time with study and caring for a newborn daughter, Tess.
When it became clear that part-time work while studying wouldn’t work, Scott moved out of IT completely and switched to the University of New England.
Luckily, Michelle is a qualified teacher and was able to work while Scott studied full-time.
Life as a mature-age medicine student
“Being a mature-age student, I thought that I was younger than what I was. It was a shock to see the younger students. But I found out that they’re mature in other ways, like their work ethic. Everyone is so supportive of my circumstances,” he says.
For Scott, success in medical school is about staying on top of everything and being prepared.
“I am not a night owl, so I get a couple of study hours in after the kids have gone to bed. I study for one day on the weekend, and I usually leave one day of the week for the kids. There are always sacrifices.
“My undergraduate degree was all about cramming. Medical school isn’t like that; cramming and medicine don’t go well together.”
Why general practice?
For Scott, general practice was the obvious choice because of the job satisfaction that comes from working in a person-centred profession.
“General practice is so satisfying as a job. Patient interaction is rewarding, and you can help solve problems,” Scott says.
As a mature-aged student, with a wife and two young kids, Scott found many barriers to pursing other medical specialties.
“Other specialties, such as surgery, have a big climb up the career ladder. You’re on-call in the hospital and work long, unusual hours — this is restrictive for a lot of mature-age students.
“If I did surgery, I wouldn’t be fully qualified until I was about 50. That’s tough, because you’re then competing against people in their 30s who have better eyesight and better stamina. At 50, you just won’t have career longevity — in this way, general practice is a great career choice.”
Scott is in his fourth year of his degree. He is a member of GPSN. Long-term, Scott would like to practise in Armidale, a rural town in NSW.
“I like rural medicine. Time can be so short in the city. A rural GP can have greater knowledge of patients because they often spend more time with them. You usually know the name of the patient’s partner, or you might play sport with the patient on the weekend.”