6 steps for taking a gap year in med school

Are you a medical student wanting a year off from studies? Or are you finishing med school and not ready to start working as an official doctor yet? Don’t fear! It’s all possible. (Click here for tips on taking time off as a doctor-in-training).

Whatever your reason for wanting a gap year, this is the right place for you! I’ve taken…3 gap years in med! Here are some tips for taking time off in medicine.

You might be surprised at how easy stepping away can be.

1. Why do you want this year off?

It may sound strange, but this is definitely the place to start. Why do you want to take a break? Other projects or interests? To travel? Feeling burnt-out? Define your “why” for this year and that can help with future planning.

In my case, I needed a break after 3rd year because I wasn’t sure if medicine was for me and I was tired. My 2nd gap year was after graduating. I declined internship because I realised I wasn’t ready. I wanted to experience the world more.

Taking time away can brig much needed perspective. To see an example of this read this amazing article by Dr Cachia here.

2. What would you like to happen in that year?

The world is your oyster! What would you like to happen in your time away from med school? Don’t put limits on yourself, there’s so much possible and available to you.

For me, I wanted to travel and really enjoy myself. Spending the year doing research in my home town wasn’t what I really wanted. Both gap years I spent travelling, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

What would you like to do?

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

3. Paperwork

In most Australian medical schools deferring a year during your studies is very straight-forward. Find out the census date for the following year, make sure you meet that deadline and submit paperwork requesting to defer. Speaking with your year coordinator and/or Dean of your medical school can help clear up what is exactly needed.

It has to be a full year usually. Coming back is easier than you think, like riding a bike.

Declining internship is a little more paperwork. Declining is easy, in NSW you decline via HETI. You have up to three years to start internship after graduating medical school (e.g. if you graduate in 2018 you can do internship in 2019, 2020 or 2021) and there is nothing held against you when you apply again (as long as you decline before the clinical year starts).

Reapplying is exactly like the first application. Scans of your ID & testamur certified by a Justice of the Peace for the year you’re applying (you can’t reuse scans you’ve already done). Put in the dates in your calendar for the next intake, don’t forget.

Learn how it’s done for your state or territory. I emailed HETI to get information on how to do it and if it would affect my applications in the future.

Photo by Mailchimp on Unsplash

4. Research what it means for your studies & future work

During medical school, taking a gap year usually does not impact your studies formally or future career. Maybe you will feel slightly rusty, but it really is like you’ve never left after a week or two back.

Internship applications are not affected in NSW by declining before the clinical year starts. Research for your state or territory.

Again, maybe things might feel a bit rusty on starting official work, but a year away does not really affect things. Most interns start work a bit nervous, plus you will be closely supervised in the first few months. If you take more than one year off, maybe keep up to date on guidelines or make time for medical related work before going back.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

5. Financial planning

This part makes a lot of people nervous! How can I afford a year away?

As a medical student we can often struggle to raise funds, but trust me, it is possible to have the year you dream of while working & studying medicine.

Calculate how much you would need for your year away. On average about $20-150 per day while travelling is needed, depending on the country and how you travel.

Once you know how much you need, you can work to achieve this goal and budget accordingly. Maybe spend the summer and a few months working to save, then head off! Or work during your studies and save as you go.

Click here on how I did it, how much I saved, spent and what I did. Plus what jobs are great for saving $$$.

Handy gap year book for travels.

6. Plan your year off and then enjoy!

Once you’ve done a few months of working and filing paper work, you can reap the rewards!

Plan the next year as you would like it. Design it for you!

Enjoy guilt free. You deserve it!

Then come back refreshed for the next year. Medicine will wait for you, don’t worry.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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