a rambling post asking about regrets

jeez. just when you think you know everything.
so, i want to be a doctor. i’m sort of new here - i’m mostly a lurker. however, after reading some of the “other” pre-med/med/afterlife boards, i feel shaken and need some input. the general consensus is that if they had it to do over, they would do anything but medicine.
then, just last month, my rheumatologist told me that i should look into PA/NP programs instead. he said MD/DO is just so not worth it. i tried to argue my position (as i was watching him try to aspirate fluid from my mom’s knee… that looks like fun to do!!!), but he just kept insisting that since i was a “greenie” that i didn’t know any better. i left the office in a funk.
now, i’m no idealist. i spent my time working a ton of hours trying to climb the proverbial ladder. i’ve been blindsided by less than upstanding co-workers. i’ve experienced my share of red tape culminating in my eventual lay-off after my maternity leave. i’m certainly not going into this thinking that i’ll make a boat load of money and that i’ll sit around doing nothing to boot.
however, my dad’s cardiologist (who was a concert pianist in a former life) encourages me up the wazoo. says he loves what he does despite the negatives. and he still plays piano!
since my dad is the king of non-compliant patients , i haven’t seen his cardiologist to run this past him. so i thought to come here.
do you think its possible that us non-trads go into this field with our eyes open a bit wider? i have lived a lifetime before considering medical school. i am married, have a daughter, and i’ve had two careers already (corporate and uh, household - stay at home mom!!!). honestly, i couldn’t imagine going into pre med/medical school right out of high school. i wonder if all those people claiming that medicine took over their life feel that way because they weren’t prepared? i mean, i realize that i have NEVER experienced anything like medical school and the amount of information you are required to process. but i’m talking afterwards. why do i feel like i am seeing so many disgruntled docs? don’t they realize that every field of work sucks in some way and that nothing is perfect? i worked with corporate lawyers for a while, and one of them said something profound… he said that yeah, he makes a barrel of money per year, but divide it up by the hours he worked and he may as well have gone to work at mcdonalds. but he said he loves what he does, and wouldn’t want to do anything else. and this was after his fourth day of showering at our office (the corporate lawyers actually ate all meals and slept at our office, sometimes for weeks, while working on transactions.) of course, in a former life, this guy was president/founder/ceo of some now defunct company that he started. so, he went back to school at a later age and was no stranger to hard work, politics, and the heartbreak of failure.
bah. i’m actually not even sure of what i am looking for here. but if its any consolation to those of you who unwittingly fell into this post and actually read it all, i feel a little better just having spewed all that out.
but. do any of you have regrets? not so much what are the bad sides of medicine, but do any of you truly regret going into medicine???

Hi and welcome. You are amongst friends here and you can ask anything.
My father-in-law went into medicine as a non tradition student as well. He left a very good job as a chemical engineer after the company gave him a turkey for an invention that had brought the company gobs of money.
When I told him that I was applying to medical school he told me that he was not going to let me make this decision without knowing the whole truth with one caveat. If, after he tells me everything, I still want to pursue it he will support me 100%.
He has been trying to discourage me by telling me that medicine is not what it used to be. Doctors are not making the same money as before and they are betting BOHICA’d (Bend Over Here It Comes Again) every day.
Still this is what I want to do and I am doing it. I have already applied and I am just waiting.
Welcome again, good luck, and ask away!!!

Doctors vary in their happiness. I do know two happy doctors. There’s a DO family medicine practitioner who says he loves what he does and sure, insurance and all of that is frustrating but you just can’t let that make you feel like a victim. I think you have to get as clear a picture of the lifestyle as you can, and make the best decision possible for yourself.
And it’s still possible you’ll find you have to make adjustments in your career when you finish in order to live in a way that works for you. You can’t REALLY know how you’ll react to the career when you get there. All you can do is get as much information as you can, weigh it carefully, and then shout, “Banzai!” and go for it if you choose to do so.

a lot will depend on specialty that you end up in as well…there are some that work their arses off and others that have more lenient hours. Sure to some degree you can pick your schedule but I find this hard to believe when you are starting out…meaning I cannot see a recent residency grad just working 8-5 UNLESS it is a shared position which are NOT available all over the country…

Well, as I get older, I am not nearly as sure about things as I was when younger, but one different thing is that I am much more sure that, despite total ignorance, I can trudge through just about anything, including all that would have stopped me cold in my 20’s. The people I knew when I was first choosing a career who picked medicine all wanted to make alot of money. I bet those that made it all the way through are now disappointed. Well, all I wanted at the time was a guy and a stable job, and I spent alot of time making money, too, and have now come to the other side of that, which is, OK, now what? What really makes sense? Is it making lots of money printing the SI swimsuit issue, or is it taking a pay hit with medicine? I quit running away from stupid jobs once I realized that every job has it’s own set of stupidities, and what was really the most stupid was my attitude. Once the attitude was replaced, the career really opened up to alot of possibilities I would never have considered when I was younger, like things I was not good enough for, as well as things I was too sexy for. I think I am better prepared then the younger folks, but I am still not convinced that much of this will matter to admissions people.

I am about to graduate (six months), and so I can’t talk with real experience about how much I will love medicine in 3 or 6 or ten years, I can tell you what I’ve observed so far, and what I think.
For one thing, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you refer to non-trad students as having more perspective. Most of the complaints I’ve heard from unhappy doctors tends to be along the lines of “I didn’t think I’d have to deal with this”, the “this” being anything from paperwork to insurance companies, to administrations. The thing is, most of the time they have never held another professional job. Their experience in the professional working world is as a resident and then as a physician. Many don’t realize how difficult, frustrating, and utterly annoying the day to day issues of ANY job can be, or how long and hard most jobs are! In my life before medical school, other than while in undergrad, I never worked less than a 40 hour week. My work weeks were typically a minimum of 60 hours a week. Lots of people in lots of professions work long hard hours, as you mentioned.
Another reason for dissatisfaction that I’ve noticed is not knowing what you are getting into-- by this I mean having a romanticized version of their specialty.
ALso, there are some who simply thought they would make more money than they making, and that after residency they could coast and have easy hours. That might be true at some point, but in todays health care world, it’s not going to happen for a while.
And finally, I think some docs just get bored with their career. Which is perfectly understandable to many of us non-trads-- after all, many of us are changing careers. In fact, I would EXPECT them to get bored after twenty years or so. The thing is-- with medicine you can ALWAYS change directions. There are so many opportunities. As a doctor, you have skills that will always allow you to work, if you want to.
I guess I’d sum up with saying that most of those who say they would do anything but medicine have never done anything but medicine-- so how could they possibly know?
I’ll start residency this summer, and while I’m expecting that it will be very hard work, and I’ll be exhausted, and at times I may even hate it and second guess my choices (as I have at times during medical school) I’m also very excited, and I know I will love it, too. The bottom line for me is when I ask myself what I would rather be doing, I can’t think of a single thing. Oh, and by the way, there are many doctors who do love what they are doing.
Hope that helps.

As Gabe so eloquently pointed out - here, you are among friends & you can ask anything.
From my perspective (3rd year resident in a dual residency: anesthesiology & leadership/preventive med + a fellowship in critical care med to follow) & I still LOVE being a physician. W/o a doubt, knowing what I know now, I would do it all over again - w/o hesitation…although I am sure glad I won’t have to!
Was it tough? Hell yeah. Was it one of the most challenging & rewarding things I’ve ever done? Hell yeah. How does it compare to my roles as father/husband? Second place, but damned close.
Regarding your comment about nontrads having their eyes more open: in my personal experience, I have rarely (do not recall any) encountered a nontrad/second-career physician who regretted their decision to become a physician - I am sure they are out there, but I have not come across one nor heard tales of one. And, I unfortunately come across a larger number of trads than I would prefer who became physicians & wish that they could change that decision.
These are purely anecdotal observations, but I infer that being older, more mature, more professional, more real-world experience or what ever you wish to call it gives us an upper hand. Our advantage is not some secret insight into the world of medicine or any other profession we may seek through a nontrad route. No, the advantage is in knowing ourselves. Most all applicants have had some sort of observational perspective on medicine & some of us have a truly inside, hands-on experience to substantiate our desire to become doctors. However, I truly feel that it was the knowing of the true “me” that allowed me to be confident in my decision to pursue medicine. That confidence has now translated into legitimate satisfaction both personally & professionally as a physician.
No one, absolutely no one can make this decision for you. For your entire journey, you will encounter folks who are not happy & tell you to run away…occasionally, I still get this advice, though at my level, exceedingly rare. But, I do get occasional inquiries as to my sanity.
Your strength is in knowing “you”. Take what ever time is necessary to make the observations about medicine & filter it through what you know to be “you”. Only then can you make this decision wisely. Once you have chosen, proceed. Also know that you will occasionally question your choice…esp around exam time! That is normal…we all did it.

thank you all. i feel so… at home here. yeh, corny, i know. but i don’t feel like i fit in with the younger crowd. yeesh! i never thought i’d hear myself say that, and certainly not at 30 years old! LOL amazing, isn’t it, how we suddenly consider ourselves old when it comes down to stuff like this? i wonder if i don’t use it as an excuse in some ways… for my own personal excuse. sort of as something to hide behind if i fail. but thats a reflection for another day, time and thread!
anyway. i really want to thank you guys for all jumping in and sharing your stories and opinions. the only one who truly, whole-heartedly and unabashedly encourages me in real life is my husband. its nice to have a place like this where i can go and feel welcome and encouraged. so, thanks.

Hi Susanna,
I wish I could answer your primary question, but I am just starting down this road myself. But, you sound so discouraged I just have to point something out to you. Can you imagine the regret we would feel if we didn’t follow our dreams? I already put this off for the last 20 years, and as you say, have lived a lifetime. I read a study on regret a couple of weeks ago and the highest rated area of regret was concerning the choices people had made in education. And, this result crossed lines of gender, age, socioeconomic status, cognitive aptitude, you name it. I would cite it like a good girl should, but I can’t remember those details. The regret seemed to be strongest for people who felt as though they could still effect a change. So, maybe thos regretters that are moaning to you just made the wrong choice their first time around and now they should consider joining the world of law? Meanwhile, you and I, and our brothers and sisters, will just step up and take their places they need to vacate.
We never know how much time is left to us, and I say go forward. You sound like your feet are firmly planted in reality; it’s good to acknowledge the reality of highs and lows and the existence of less favorable aspects of practicing. But unless your second choice can make you get up when you don’t feel like it, stay awake as long as is needed, and still feel joyful about it (do not equate that with happy; I do not mean happy), then you have no other choice.
One last thought and I promise to stop, even if someone here were to say they truly regretted going into medicine, would that make regret any likelier for you? No. Would reversing your decision to go forward based on someone’s admission of regret make regret any likelier for you? Possibly, if not probably.
Good luck to you,

Hi Susanna,
I just wanted to add that physicians are not the only type of health profession that deals with enormous amounts of paperwork. As a speech-language pathologist in an independent practice, I have all the same billing woes (insurance, medicaid, medicare, etc.). I feel at a greater disadvantage though because insurance companies rarely want to pay me for any services, even when it’s quoted in benefits, yet I see my PT and OT counterparts receive their checks (for the same clients!). All health professions have paperwork to deal with. HCFA forms, notes, treatment plans, assessments, evaluations, etc. One plus though - I only pay $100 a year for $1 mil/$3 mil malpractice coverage.
My point is - if you want to be a physician, then go for it. Every job has its ups and downs. You can expect more responsibility with a physician’s job, because, frankly, it’s a job that requires a lot of responsibility! So for those that don’t like it - maybe they went into it for the wrong reasons, or like you said, just out of college and had no idea how the “real world” works.
You have a leg up, so to speak, by addressing this issue now and knowing what to expect, for the most part. I really know how you feel - I had a long talk with my parents this weekend for advice on my direction. I told them I would love to be a physician, and mostly do anything but speech therapy. (It’s a great job, but I need more). They questioned me on this topic, and were satisfied that I know what to expect (my mom is an FP). My mom thinks I should go into dentistry and my dad thinks I should take everything one step at a time . But all in all, they support me (but really they want me to get on with it so I can give them grandkids LOL)
So, good luck to you, chin up, and hope to see you post more - this is an EXCELLENT thread!!!

Okay, I love taking care of Patients and really wanted to become an FP in a rural community. So after 18yrs in Nursing here I am in Med school. I would shadow a Doc in an area of Medicine you are interested in. Try to do it a couple of times to get some kinda feel. Go volunteer in a hospital to observe the health care system from that prosepective. Bottom line though, until you do it you may not really know but so far I love it and I’m in my first year at school, so… more to come

thanks everyone! its nice to hear stories from people out there who did/are doing what i want to do! i feel a lot less alone.
megboo, i considered dentistry since i heard it has a better lifestyle and pays well. however, i can’t see myself liking it, much less loving it. i mean, i get so blinkin’ fascinated over various medical procedures.
a few years back, my mom was very sick. she was in the hospital for over three months with a very resistant case of osteomyelitis brought on, perhaps, by her use of anakinra injectibles for her RA. i spent near 24 hours a day in her room everyday. (against hospital policy, yes, but the nurses loved me and never said anything about it. in fact, the night nurse said “you change her sheets, you bathe her and you take care of her bedpan. what more could anybody ask for!”) anyway, when she went into the hospital, she couldn’t walk, she was hallucinating (oh, the stories she told about santa being in her room, etc!), and pretty much every one of her joints had filled up with pus and were extremely hot and painful. she was put on large doses of IV abx, rifampin and cipro among them. the infection was eventually found to have its home base in the base of her spine. for a while, it was truly touch and go. the doctors weren’t necessarily expecting her to pull through, she was so sick. well, through the magic of faith, the will of a determined patient and the power of some very very very dedicated and intelligent docs, my mom got out of the hospital on wednesday, and was at my wedding on saturday. in a wheelchair and hooked up to iv abx and with ruptured tendons in the right hand from the cipro, but there nonetheless. it was during all this that i remembered why i wanted to practice medicine. and even during the times when i was scared of losing my mom the most, i would immerse myself in watching the procedures they did bedside. the ortho surgeon would come in every day and lance her joints to drain them. it got to the point where he would let me “help” him. i would hold my mom’s hand in one hand and in my other hand (while, even in her delusion, she would tell me that i was crazy to like watching this stuff), i would hold the drain pan while i watched. was it easy to do? no, it was my mother and it was extremely painful for her. but i knew they were doing everything in their power to help her. and they all looked so intent and drawn in, yet they never seemed to get tired of all my questions. i mean, i am sure when they left the room, they had a lot to say, but they never showed their impatience to me!
and dedicated? the ortho sometimes would come in at 10:30 at night to do the draining, despite having worked cases all day. once, when she was starting to feel better, he came in at almost 11 pm all decked out. he said he and his wife were on their way home from a party, and he wanted to stop in and see how she was doing. he had heard that she was more coherent, and he came in to apologize for having to hurt her, and actually spent a couple of minutes just chatting with her and telling her to hang in there. and he told my mom that i should be a doctor! he turned to me and said that anyone that had the fascination that i had despite the fact that it was my mom laying there, was meant to be a doctor. and my mom, in all her lucidity of the moment, said “yes… she’s always wanted to do it, ever since i can remember. in fact, we all call her ‘dr. suess’. but her father and i always told her she should be a nurse or go into business instead. we discouraged her, because we thought she could never lead a normal life. what did we know?” and you know what? turns out the ortho doc was another non trad who went back to school later in life. i think my mom is still concerned about how my daughter will fare if i pursue this, but she no longer tries to convince me that it is a bad idea.
so anyway. in all that verbiage, there is supposed to be a point. and, the point is that despite the fact that my mom’s doctors were in and out at some crazy hours and despite the fact that they were hurting MY mama, i was still fascinated by the procedures and the genuine care they gave her. and i realized again why i wanted to earn the priviledge to practice medicine. not only does in fascinate me to no end, if i had the opportunity to make half the impression on even one patient that my mom’s docs made on her, then i know i would have done my life’s work. now, i know that not all families are as appreciative as we were. and i know how it can be dealing with obnoxious relatives… my dad is one. when it comes to my mom, he thinks everyone needs to drop everything to take care of her forthwith, and he is NOT shy about telling you that he thinks you aren’t doing enough! LOL. and when his anxiety kicks in, it can be downright embarrassing to listen to him! it was a tough job getting him to keep his mouth shut and not embarrass us all… especially my mom, who would have been mortified had she known!
and the kicker? it all culminated in a 9 hour surgery a few months later where they cleaned out and sort of “rebuilt” her spine. which, i might add, the doctor agreed to have taped so i could watch it! he said he could use it for a teaching aid as well, so he even kind of narrated it! it was like having my own “discovery channel” episode! and my mother still thinks i’m nuts.
wow. i don’t know where all that came from. originally i considered erasing all of it because…frankly, why would you guys care to read it!!! but, if you all don’t mind, i’m leaving it. this way, when i feel discouraged, i can check out what i wrote. i hope you all don’t mind. i guess i’m just at that point where i am still trying to validate this idea. most of my musings are me trying to convince myself that it is ok if i do this, and not me being selfish.
well, anyway. again, thanks to everyone who responded. i appreciate all the insight and encouragement.

Susanna, What a fascinating story! I agree–you need to be a doctor! The comment you made that prompted me to write is your reference to feeling “selfish” about going to medical school. I’m sure you are worried how your family will fare when you pursue your dream. I, too, was worried about that when I was 17 and decided that I couldn’t be a doctor and a mom at the same time. Now that my kids are grown, I am convinced that they would have survived having a doctor for a mom. In my opinion, too many times women put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own to such an extent that they forget to think about themselves and their needs at all. I am so thankful that I have the chance to pursue medical school now, but I just wish I wouldn’t have chosen to wait so long! Don’t think of your dreams as being selfish. You are an important person in this equation, too. Best wishes to you as you make your decision.

Yeah, dentistry looks like a nice field, but my passion is still for medicine!

Great story Susanna!!

for the most part, i am writing all of my thoughts out in this thread so that i can keep coming back to look at it. i figure this particular musing might also be useful for any premeds out there wondering about the money you’ll make as a doctor… i just wanted to share this. read carefully.

yes, perhaps doctors do not make the money they used to. perhaps you can make more if you get your MBA. however. do not go into a field strictly for money. even with your MBA, businesses may find ways to “trim the fat”, and automate your job, split it out amongst lesser paid employees, or any variant on these ideas. or perhaps the need for your company’s services drops dramatically. at that point, its “bye bye!” to your money. job security is SOOOOO much more important. heres why.

i used to work corporate. i only have an associates degree, but i worked my arse off and i was making very very good money (almost 80K a year). life was good, even though i hated the work. i made more money than many of my friends still plodding through school. one of my friends graduated with her masters in psychology or something and is now employed by a school. when she first got in, she made 50K. we laughed about it, and she joked that she was jealous. i got pregnant, and was on bedrest. well, supposed to be. i would get up to go in the office (two hours away by train!) when they called, i had a laptop at home that i worked on… i had my baby in august '04 and my friend was pregnant not long after that. she was on bedrest too. but she didn’t work from home. she didn’t go in the office…they didn’t ask her to! looking back now, i realize that i put my daughter in jeopardy by giving into my company. anyway, to make a long story longer…

i was laid off shortly after my maternity leave. despite the fact that i put my health and my unborn daughter’s health on the line for them, my company made a business decision. and that decision was to move my position to a different state and divide it out amongst various lesser paid people. my friend is now tenured, still working, and pregnant again! she still makes less than i did at my old job, but…

now? i am now gainfully re-employed at the local supermarket making 7 bucks an hour. woo hoo!!!

all i have to say is work towards JOB SECURITY, baby, JOB SECURITY!!! the money is nice while its there, but it can be ripped out from under you in the blink of an eye. in a new york minute, everything can change and you can be asking “paper or plastic” just like me!

the scary thing is that i prefer being a cashier over the work i was doing at my last job!

note to self: so, susanna, this is why you should follow your life’s ambition. you’ve had to scrape the bottom of the barrel, you’ve made money and now you are down on your luck again (ever try to live on long island on a NYPD salary and a cashiers salary?!?! LOL!). there is no way to anticipate what life has in store for us. the only thing you can do is do your best to make yourself happy and comfortable!

All I have to say is
Pay not the highest,
Hours some of the longest,
To relieve suffering…priceless.

If you want to be a doctor. Go be a doctor. It’s like anything you do, there are risks, but don’t let the what could happen prevent you from what you truly want to do.

Don’t apologize, it’s a great story! Actually, reading it made me feel at home leaving my post up. Your story is inspirational! It sounds to me like the biggest regret you would have is NOT chasing this dream, Not seeing where this road leads.
Everybody finds their call in life in different ways. Simplistic, yes I know. But, oh so true.
It DOES sounds like you were meant to be a doctor. And I’ve always been a big believer in things like that.
But, for heaven’s sake, please don’t be embarrased about posting it!

thanks, croyd, for the kind words.
i guess i just hate that i am so… i dunno… afraid, i guess, to do this. i have so many doubts and fears. then i think. doctors are supposed to be confident and self assured. i feel none of that. does this mean i’m not cut out for it?
geez. that was scary. that is the sentiment that has been haunting me since high school. i have never actually admitted that to anyone before. at least, not that blatantly. not even to myself. actually having written it out makes it undeniable. see, before i actually wrote that, i would go around pretending that everything else stood in the way of my desire. for years i blamed lack of money, then it was lack of time, then it was that i didn’t want to upset my family balance. there was always a “reason” for not pursuing. i’d buy the mcat practice books, open it, look at the chem stuff (that i used to know) and tell myself i’m too old now. i’ll never be able to re-learn it all. i have sabatoged myself in every way, shape and form possible.
the truth is, i am scared. scared that i am not good enough, scared that i am going to fail. scared that if i get in, i’ll fail miserably. scared that even if i don’t, that i won’t know the answer to any of the pimp questions and i’ll look like an unintelligent fool. i was never good at failure. i find that the older i get, the less i try new things for fear of rejection. in high school, i had every confidence in my abilities. as i age, i am less confident, but have more excuses!!!
~sigh~. i know in my heart and soul that this is what i would love to do. any form of medicine is fascinating to me. i was never one of those that said, “i wanna be a surgeon/ob-gyn/fam doc/etc.”. i think they all sound neat, in their own way. in fact, my mother in law just had to go for a colonoscopy and was seeing a gastroenterologist. she said to me, “what kind of person decides to do that as a living?”… and me, i just went on to list all the things that were fascinating and all the rewarding things that gastro holds. she just laughed and shook her head. muttered something about how only I would find anything redeeming in dealing with other peoples poop.
well, anyway, i went off on one of my usual tangents. i am glad that you found my post inspirational and not scary. i look forward to reading more from you!!!