23-year old nursing student really needs advice!

Hi All,
Here is my story: I am a 23-year old female, unmarried, childless Canadian from Vancouver, British Columbia who graduated high school in 1999. I then attended the University of BC and majored in psychology (B.A.). I was “pre-med” during my 1st and 2nd years, and took first year biology, chemistry (only one half-course), and physics. I have never been natural or great at sciences (more of a humanities/social sciences person) so I had decided to take the prereqs slowly, and sprinkled over time.
My grades in these courses were not very good: other than an A in the bio lab course, I got a B- in the other bio course, B in one of the physics, B- in chem, and an F in the other physics course. These grades were enough to scare me off being “pre-med”.
So, I enjoyed psychology and just finished the degree, with no clear idea of where I was headed. After graduation, I took an unclassified year, taking some random courses, and applied to nursing school. I am now in first year nursing.
I really have enjoyed my first term of nursing school, and cannot wait until we start clinical this term. I know that there are some wonderful opportunities in nursing, and I think I would enjoy having a long-term career as a nurse.
But, my heart has (for the last 6 years) and still, longs for medicine. I know I will probably enjoy nursing, but I still would like to pursue medicine. My reasons are that I have long held the desire to be in primary care, particularly in family medicine. My father is a family doctor and I have grown up helping out in his office and I know all about the career. My mom is a nurse so i know all about nursing too. (lucky me, I guess :-). I have shadowed my dad’s locums/partners, and love seeing my own GP because I love her job. I have volunteered in hospitals and in blood donor clinics, and in many things health-related. I really, really, wish I could become a GP.
It seems I have the desire, the time, the support, and the resources to go to medical school and become a doctor, but I do not have the one very essential thing: the intellectual ability!!! I am not saying this out of low self-esteem, but I am being very honest…I suck at science. I did well in high school sciences because they are pretty much a joke, but university-level ones are a completely different story. The F I got in physics was not due to lack of studying or to partying – I had a regular tutor, and studied regularly – I just did not understand optics, fluids, simple harmonic motion, and all that other good stuff.
Getting into medical school in Canada and US are probably not options for me. I have about a 3.2 GPA and I do not think I can cut the rest of the science pre-reqs and be competitive. i have not taken the MCAT. So, the options that I think I have are these: finish nursing, work for awhile, and then apply to become a nurse practitioner and be able to do some primary care. This is a viable option but my only concern is that I will regret not ever being able to have a full-scope of primary care practice and skills. I really want that full ability to differentially diagnose, manage chronic illnesses, and do the minor outpatient surgeries. The second option is going to international medical schools (Ireland, Australia, Caribbean). I know the chances of returning home to Canada are slim, but I would try for the U.S. for residency (I know many Canadians who are aiming to take this route). My concern about this option is that it costs a heck of a lot of money, and there are no guarantees for getting a U.S. residency : thus far, I have found no reliable statistics of how many Canadian IMGs are able to successfully match in the U.S. for residency.
I am begging for advice…!!! International med school? Nurse practitioner? Try for Canadian/US med schools? All advice is welcome. I really need to make some kind of informed decision. Thanks greatly in advance. (BTW, moving around is okay – I have no significant other or anything keeping me attached to anywhere – kinda lonely (though that’s a different story :-))

Hi there,
Welcome to the group! There are quite a few nurses to physicians that post regularly so I encourage you to search some of the threads to find there posts. There is a very helpful thread a little earlier under this category that will answer many of your questions. I encourage you to do a search.
Please let use know how you are doing in your quest. Stop by and post especially if you are feeling a little lonely in this process. There is lots of encouragement to be found on this website.

Especially look for post by Mary Riley Renard, MD who was an RN before she went back to medical school. She is now a PGY-1 Family Medicine Resident but do a search for some of her posts. She has written some very wise words about every step of the process in making the transition from RN to MD.
Since I am off to work at this time, I will point you toward doing a search for her posts but later, I will try to post the most helpful threads if I can find them.
Good luck and again, welcome!
Natalie

Don’t give up on your dream of being a doctor just because you think you suck at science. I felt the same way before I started back as a premed. My first semester of college, back when I was 18 was a disaster. I got a C in Bio I and a D in Chem I. After that, I decided I just wasn’t good at science and shouldn’t bother to pursue it (I became an English major). So when I decided to go premed 6 years later, I was terrified. I had no idea how I was going to pull it off, considering I “suck” at science.
What I’ve learned is that science is an acquired set of skills that is completely different than the skills you would use for other majors. You have to learn how to study differently. You have to go into the teacher for help every chance you get. You have to refuse to give up, no matter how hard it is, no matter how frustrated you are. And it gets much easier the more you do it. My first semester back as a premed, I felt like I was trying so hard, and barely making decent grades. Now, a year and a half into it, I actually find some science classes easy. And the ones I have problems with, like Organic Chemistry, I go to the teacher for help, I get as many tutoring sessions per week as I need and when I get frustrated, I come up here and ask for advice from people who have already been through it.
You’re still really young. I say go for it. Once you figure out how to study for your science classes, they start to get easier and you remember how much fun science can be. Good luck! Keep us posted.
Gina

Mike,
Is it the science, or is it the math? If you go back and kick the heck out of the math (visit a couple of different tutors until you click with one and do the homework problems multiple times), the physics may make a lot more sense to you. In addition, maybe you could shadow a nurse practitioner for a while and get a very clear sense of whether you’d be quite happy in such a practice, or would always be wishing you’d become a doctor.
I think your chances are slim in a US med school with your science skills AS THEY ARE NOW, but your chances of doing well in med school once you get in might be equally slim. So treat your percieved lack of intellectual capacity as a puzzle and figure out what you really need to change in order to go back and really master those sciences. It may all be math, and that may be fixable.

I don’t think it’s really the math because I have taken Calculus I and done decently (B+). I didn’t have issues manipulating the equations in physics, or doing the calculations.
My problem is the grasping the concept i.e. knowing which equations to use and why. I really tried hard to understand fluid dynamics, for example, but had real difficulty with the sample final exam questions. I knew I didn’t get the concepts when the questions were changed slightly and I wouldn’t know what the questions were asking.
I apologize for my negativity – I’m trying not to sound bitter, but I am really frustrated. Has anyone been in this situation? I’m really thinking that I just don’t have an aptitude for science (even if I try really hard) and perhaps just stick with nursing and try to become an NP or do something in advanced practice later on.
The science prereqs for med school, i’m thinking, were made “prereqs” for a reason – I guess if you are able to do well in them it is evidence that you will be able to handle the science of med school…science is the basis of medicine and if I can’t do basic sciences then I guess it means I can’t do medicine. Do you think that I really just need to accept that my talents lie elsewhere?

Mike,
You don’t sound negative–you sound appropriately frustrated. I’ve occasionally had the sense of not “owning” the equations, and for ME doing the homework over and over would make it click for me sometimes. But everybody’s different, and the concepts are not usually my stumbling block. Before you give up on your science aptitude, maybe you could see if your university has an office where you can be tested for a learning disability–if there is one, it may be possible to find an appropriate teaching or tutoring style that WILl allow you to grasp the concepts you need. In other words, investigate several ways to really get a firm handle on what is standing in your way there so you can decide confidently whether the problem is really insurmountable.
One specific thing I’d suggest in physics just as a trial is to get someone who really understands physics to sit down with you and DERIVE THE EQUATIONS in front of you. If the math, including calculus, works for you, you might be able to follow the calculus through to the derivations and it might snap into place. I’m just brainstorming here, so take my idea with a really large grain of salt.
Otherwise, or else at the same time, I’d suggest spending some quality time with nurse practitioners and see if that practice is something you could love doing. Try the decision on for a week like a suit and really wear it and see how you feel about it.
Hang in there! I wish the best for you as you look for your answers.

Mike84,
I would suggest really taking an honest look at medicine verses nursing? What draws you to each of them? Having been a pediatric intensive care nurse for 7 years and a pediatric nurse practitioner (in primary care) for an additional 11 years I do not see nursing as settling or less than medicine.
As an undergraduate nursing major I took the same science courses ( and more ) than the “premeds”. Thus, even if you pursue nursing there is still science to do. However, I do not know the amount of science in undergraduate nursing in Canada.
My graduate education was two years devoted entirely
to pediatrics. As a pediatric nurse practitioner I do diagnosis and treat independently. I think the suggestion that you shadow a NP is a good one. However, if after you inquire, reflect and do some soul searching you decide medicine is the path for you I say go for it! You are young with many opportunities ahead of you. The only obstacle is perhaps doubt.
Believe me,after recently turning 40, I am beginning to question if it is worth it,personally and financially,to give up a career that I have worked very hard for to pursue medical school.
Sorry to be so long winded. Hopes this helps.
Shirl

Mike84, your original post thoughtfully spells out the various options you’re considering for a significant time span - you’ve really given your dilemma some careful thought. I’d like to suggest that you back up and just address the question of the here-and-now.
For right now you’re committed, it sounds like, to your nursing program. Great! I am glad to hear you looking forward to clinical work and I am sure you are going to enjoy it.
But you don’t need to decide ANY time soon about the various options that could open up for you in the next several years. It is way too early to conclude, for example, that if you want a medical degree you’ll have to go offshore. You’re jumping way ahead of yourself with that kind of thinking!
Similarly, I think you’re jumping ahead with your conclusion that you suck at science. You DID do poorly in some science courses a few years ago. Although your experience is pretty recent, if you ask me there’s a big difference between 19 or 20 and 23-25 years old. And even more difference between college age and working adult of, say, 25 to 30.
My point is that if and when you decide that you want that M.D., you’ll need to go back and do those prerequisites and you will be a far different person from the one who did poorly as an undergraduate. Don’t relegate yourself to the failure pile based on such early experiences!
I assume you’re going to have to do some more science courses as part of your nursing studies? If so, you will have the opportunity to see for yourself that a few years can make a big difference. Even though you say you worked hard, employed a tutor, didn’t party - and I believe you - I submit that the adult brain can focus in ways that the late adolescent brain just can’t do as well.
When it comes time to repeat that physics coursework, seek out not just tutors but like-minded individuals who might help you to visualize / conceptualize the material in a way that clicks for you. Learn more about HOW you learn and it may not be so impossible the next time.
Give yourself some time, and cut yourself some slack. Enjoy what you’re doing now and remember to enjoy the journey even if it’s taken a few turns you didn’t expect.
Good luck!
Mary R.

The amount of science in undergrad nursing is minimal – just anatomy and physiology, and microbiology (all of which are made specific to nursing knowledge and are significantly easier than the anat/physio and micro that most science majors would take). I.e. these ‘science’ courses are made just for nurses (only nursing students can take them)
What is drawing me to both nursing and medicine is really the patient interaction and the focus on health. I know I will satisfy my desire for pt interaction in nursing, but as a nurse, i will never be able to have that skill set that family drs have.
May I ask why you are (considering) pursuing medical school? You would be a great person to ask because you are an PNP – what is it like as a PNP and why are you considering changing careers?

I would love to shadow an NP, but unfortunately there are very few of them in Vancouver right now. Canada is WAY behind the U.S. in terms of educational opportunities. We do not have PAs or CRNAs. My province (British Columbia) just started an NP program at the University of BC 1.5 years ago…the first NPs to graduate will be this May. I know there should be a few NPs around here somewhere, so maybe I’ll have a look around…
This is off-topic, but surfing this site and SDN really makes me see the U.S. as the “land of opportunity”. It is a much more competitive society and I perceive a lot of social stratification, but it seems like there there is a lot of gumption and support for bettering one’s situation and pursuing dreams.
But don’t get me wrong-- i love my country. Just an observation.

I am aiming to finish my nursing program anyhow, because I like it so far and I really don’t want to jump ship. I think I will regret it if I just leave it and run off to an offshore school. I think I will only go to an offshore school if it is one that has a strong record of Canadians passing the USMLEs and obtaining U.S. residencies. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.
There are a few science courses that we need to take in nursing school, but they are not really ‘science’…I’m not putting these courses down, but they are honestly science courses specifically for nursing students (watered down versions of what science majors would take)…I know because I’ve spoken to the nursing instructors :-). I 've take first term anat/physio and it was not very hard; I got an A but this is in no way a measure of my science aptitude.
Mary, I’ve read a lot of your posts, including the one about your journey from nurse --> doctor. I know ppl don’t like answering this question, but I consider you a woman of wisdom and very reliable character: What would you do in my situation? Tell me what to do!!!
I may be only 23, but when you’ve been dreaming about med school for six years, it makes you feel old and tired…I have gradually realized that years pass by like water from a faucet into the drain (I know, weird analogy). Getting into a Canadian medical school is going to be a wild goose chase with no end – there is only about a 15-17% success rate overall because we only have around 11-12 med schools (can’t remember the exact #). The ppl who get in are really the best and the brightest – 3.8+ GPAs, President of something, triathlete, inventor, whatever. U.S. schools accept very few Canadians.

Hey there,
I don’t think you need to rush into any decisions. If you do decide to take another stab at the pre-reqs, then there are some things you might be able to do. For one thing, if you need a tutor, make sure you find one that really helps you learn. I tutored physics, and I promise you, a good tutor (or teacher for that matter) will not let any student walk away without having a solid grasp of the concepts behind physics. (At least the ones we pre-meds are required to know!) Your grade might not change, ultimately, but you SHOULDN’T feel baffled. The reason for this is that there are so many ways to explain and talk about physics. For each person, there is some way of explaining things that will click for them. You might have to be really patient with your tutor, and devote lots of time to it, but if they care about teaching and know what they’re doing, you will get through it. For some people, the math gets in the way and they stumble over that, but it sounds like you’re just fine at math.
The fact that you were getting decent grades in other science classes means you probably can succeed very well in physics when you approach it with a fresh mindset. Maybe you just need to take awhile to decide where you’re going, and not rush things.
And the other thing is, honestly, people change. I used to be terrible at science (even flunked 10th grade geometry), and then one day, many years later, I just got much better. I think I’d just become more logical in my views on things.
Good luck!

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I may be only 23, but when you’ve been dreaming about med school for six years, it makes you feel old and tired…I have gradually realized that years pass by like water from a faucet into the drain (I know, weird analogy).







Stop it! :wink:








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Getting into a Canadian medical school is going to be a wild goose chase with no end – there is only about a 15-17% success rate overall because we only have around 11-12 med schools (can’t remember the exact #). The ppl who get in are really the best and the brightest – 3.8+ GPAs, President of something, triathlete, inventor, whatever. U.S. schools accept very few Canadians.







Yeah, but that’s true for everyone who applies there. That’s why you are lucky to have the USA right next door! I don’t think that is quite right about US schools accepting very few Canadians. I think very few choose to matriculate, due to the difference in cost though.

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There are a few science courses that we need to take in nursing school, but they are not really ‘science’…I’m not putting these courses down, but they are honestly science courses specifically for nursing students (watered down versions of what science majors would take)…I know because I’ve spoken to the nursing instructors :-). I 've take first term anat/physio and it was not very hard; I got an A but this is in no way a measure of my science aptitude.


I know what you are saying because in my experience (which is a long, long time ago - like before you were BORN) the nursing science courses were also “tracked” differently and they were definitely easier. However, they still covered real science and real concepts, so don’t sell yourself short. If you got A’s in those courses you did have to work and you did have to learn something.
Okay, this next part is very important: You must take the prerequisites for medical school regardless of whether you are applying in Canada, the U.S., or offshore. So stop thinking that going offshore is a quick fix to your science woes. It’s not. You are going to need to have an understanding of these concepts in order to master the medical biochemistry, physiology, etc. etc. that is part of the basic science tested on USMLE Step 1. You MUST have gotten through those courses - so don’t think of an offshore school as a way around this knowledge. You need it, you really do.
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Mary, I’ve read a lot of your posts, including the one about your journey from nurse --> doctor. I know ppl don’t like answering this question, but I consider you a woman of wisdom and very reliable character: What would you do in my situation? Tell me what to do!!!


Well, flattery will get you anywhere but remember that this is all free advice so… as I’ve already said, you should finish the nursing program. That’s your plan and I think it’s a good one. Then when you’re done and have gotten into the work world, I suggest that you go back and dip your toe into the pre-med water again with ONE class. An advantage of working as a nurse is that you’ve often got schedule flexibility that would allow you to take a class and still put in your hours. It may take some doing, but you’ve got a better chance in your profession than many folks in office jobs, so take advantage of it.
ONE CLASS. When you are driven by a goal that you feel is slipping away from you, the discipline to take just one bite is tough to embrace but you need to start small to build up your confidence. And ONE science class on top of a demanding job is plenty.
If that first class is successful, go for another one and build from there. If you find yourself in trouble in the first class, get help early and be ready to bail out by withdrawing if it looks like you’d be adding a bad grade to your GPA - you need to be determined to get mostly A’s from here on out. (If you spend about a week reading old OPM threads on this subject, you’ll find many stories of regret when people realized too late that they were going to get a bad grade.) HOWEVER, go into that first class with the determination and expectation that you will be successful - don’t go in thinking “I can drop it if I screw up like I did before.” No negative thinking allowed!
Having heard other folks talk about Canadian medical schools, you’re right that they seem a tad more rigid in their GPA and other expectations and less tolerant of diverse backgrounds than at least some U.S. schools. However, we HAVE had Canadian OPMs in Canadian schools so do not just write them off from the get-go. I would definitely advise you to try and talk with a representative of a Canadian medical school to see what sort of suggestions they’d have for someone in your situation - be persistent, do NOT be apologetic. Meanwhile, find out about U.S. schools that are welcoming of foreign students. (Note that none of this needs to be done now.) I had a Canadian classmate in my class at GW.
One other thing for the near future: As a nurse, you may have the opportunity to work with people who are conducting medical research - keep your eyes and ears open for such opportunities because they will definitely help buff up your resume when it comes time to apply to medical school.
These are just the ideas for getting started.
On a more philosophical note, you MUST embrace the idea that this is a long-term life goal and not something that you will lose if you don’t get it soon. You sound panicked with your metaphor about water slipping away. Feeling desperate or panicky is going to drive you to make bad decisions and you need to pursue your goal with deliberation and careful thought. Anything worth doing is worth taking the time to do right. No shortcuts, no rush.
Finally, work to cultivate a positive attitude. You have a strong, well-articulated desire to practice MY favorite brand of medicine, family practice, and from what you’ve said I think you’d be a good one. You need to come across as confident in the gifts/skills you already possess, and sure that you will be able to acquire the additional knowledge and skills necessary to practice medicine. Hold your head up high, don’t apologize for what’s already done, DON’T assume that your past is going to shadow you forever. Work to develop a sense of surety that you can do this. The head game is a LOT of the battle, truly.
Mary

Mary,
Thank you so much for your words – I think it was just what I needed to hear. I think I have been catastrophizing a lot and not really thinking very logically, and this advice is something I wouldn’t have realized because I was so caught up in my own emotions about the whole situation.
Bless you for all the help you give others. You will be truly blessed for it.
I will keep you updated. :slight_smile: