Does anyone regret becoming a Dr.?

Hi All,

Still in the process of deciding whether to pursue a medical career. Have two kids and a wife, 32 yrs. old now. I’ve been reading some posts on other sites about residents regretting their decision to go into medicine (long residency hrs., risk of lawsuits, call hours, etc.).

Since they went straight through and don’t have the perspective of an older person who has worked, my question is for those who switched careers and went to med school - do you regret it? If so, why? I’m also considering an anesthesiologist assistant program (shorter, less call).




This is a great question–and a tough one. I think that perhaps polling residents is not the greatest sample simply because of the amount of work/time one gives during residency. It would be interesting to see whether people change their opinions on this as they navigate through the multiple years of residency.

I am just finishing up intern year and still happy that I did it, although there were times in medical school when I didn’t feel that way. I love what I’m doing, even when I’m on the service months that are not in my specialty. I think so much of it is your attitude going into it. There is always something to not be happy with and always something to complain about, that’s easy. And sometimes when you’re at the end of an 80 hour week you just want something easy. If instead you can focus on the privilege granted to you each day, I think it changes things, at least I feel it does for me.

That’s not to say that everyday is a love-fest or anything. I have times when I am frustrated, feel overworked, know it would have been easier not to go to medical school, but in the end would I have been happy? It’s impossible to know where any path other than the one we’re on would have left us.

As you’re making your decision, I’d talk with folks in the anes assistant program as well as with physicians to get a feel for what daily life is like for them, the responsibilities they have, etc and then make the decision you feel is best for you and your family.

Best of luck!

No regrets whatsoever, with the caveat that I’m glad you didn’t ask that question when I was a resident.

Love it…except when its not my fault and certain people try to hump my leg for it!

Yes, yes…“he thinks its not his fault but its always the person’s fault to some extent”. Negative on that - in med school you can get someone deciding your leg is an eligible partner just because someone diluted their Cheerios that morning and for no fault of yours!

I vacillate frequently about whether or not I would do it again. Maybe it’s a matter of finding what my niche in medicine is. I agree with the previous posters about not relying on the opinion of residents as residency is grueling.

For me, it’s not taking care of patients. I love that part. It’s the administrative requirements that come behind the scenes with seeing each of those patients. I’m not one to cut corners, but the system is not designed to let you be thorough and do your job right, so I end up taking my own time to do it right. Just not sure how long I can keep it up.

Thanks, all. Very helpful. I plan on shadowing several docs and a couple of AA’s too. I have a sister-in-law who’s and OBGYN and one who just graduated AA school. Something medical is the right path for me, just a big difference between the two routes!

Agree on asking residents if they regret it - not the best time for the question. All the docs I’ve asked have said they’re very happy with their choice. Of course they’re older and residency is a distant memory Need to find some younger docs to mix it up…

  • KYJoe Said:
and one who just graduated AA school.

PA, by chance?

Kind of looked at that, but they don’t make enough to support the family/lifestyle I want (~85/year). Unless I found the wrong info.

I figured Adoc2b was asking if you meant PA. To be more direct, what is AA school? Didn’t recognize that abbreviation.


  • KYJoe Said:
Kind of looked at that, but they don't make enough to support the family/lifestyle I want (~85/year). Unless I found the wrong info.

I'm wearing bifocals in my mid 40's now, but I wanted to make sure I read this statement right. And I've rarely seen statements like this on oldpreds on 7 or so years.

I guess it's just surprising to me that given what it takes to become a Doctor and the many changes coming down the line with how medicine is practiced, the money/lifestyle factor is still such a huge consideration. Plus, I though the JD/MBA route was the "big money/cool lifestyle" route!

I think that a lot of folks when they start this journey have thoughts like this. Most people come into this realizing that their current careers just aren’t cutting it for them. They really want to do something that they feel rewarded at, so they look into medicine (and possibly teaching or law enforcement, but realize those really don’t pay), then comes the time of self-discovery. Some folks look at what they have currently and feel it is too much to pay to go into medicine, so they go a different route, some get hooked and are willing to pay the price. And some loose their job and their dream home and have nothing to loose(Ha Ha). You have to look inside yourself and decide how you want your life to be. I wish everyone the best of luck, this is such a hard decision and it affects your entire life so make sure you have thought of every angle. I am so happy I have discovered what I want to do, but I know the trials of the search.

As far as the money/lifestyle thing goes, once you get into it, you will soon realize that it gets minimized. Even your spouse will get on-board. My wife said to me yesterday, “If we have to live on what we live on now and we die 200k in debt, at least we will have lived the way we want.” I think your the first step in this process is letting go of what you think makes you happy and chasing things that do make you happy. Most folks don’t look back on their lives and remember the cars or houses, they remember the times sitting on the porch with your Granddad on a hot summer night, as he tells you the same “scary” story for the 1000th time.

One more story to end this horrific rambler. It is probably the reason I am so maudlin today anyway. I was heading to the hospital today to get my pre-volunteer TB test read, when I fell into a pack of med students in the hallway walking out of the cafeteria. Seeing them in their little white coats all distracted and busy got me so jazzed up. IT was like I just couldn’t wait to be there. My wife could even tell that there was a joyful tone in my voice after I called her. I know there will be a whole lotta suck over the next 8 years, but I also know that it is going to be trumped by the fact that after 15 years of searching I have found my career.

Very well put, Bailey Pup! It’s great to be in the door with my white coat, even though I got to do little clinical yet. For me, it’s seeing the 3rd years leave to go out on rotations. Can NOT wait!


Thank you. I think spring is just the time of year when folks flock to OPM. I know I was in a similar situation last year when I found this site. Trying to decide if I could got to med-school, and coming here helped.

That probably came off wrong. I’m not looking at this for the money. I have no desire to be wealthy and unhappy. I’m doing fine in my current job, but not fulfilled and don’t feel it’s my calling. The salary piece is just one aspect of this and the potential huge debt and the impact that could have on my life (mainly - can I afford to send my kids to the schools I want? can I afford to support them in college?).

My family went through some rough money times growing up and I have no desire to put my kids through that (ironic that I’m even considering med school now I know!). So for me it’s about being stable and secure while servicing a substantial debt load when/if I would make it through.

Hope I didn’t offend any PA’s or give the wrong impression!

Medicine is worth it if you go into medicine for the right reasons. I am happy all week when I help change someone’s life. If you love working hard, love a challenge, love to teach, love to solve problems, feel like it is an honor to learn someone’s life story, and love figuring it out. Are you willing to be stretched in multiple directions, live without sleep, hurt the one’s you love to save someone’s life? Money will be less and less for medicine. I figured out that I made an average of $9 a hour doing internship (80-85 hours a week + study time) I could have made more delivering pizza’s and I would have taken less abuse. I had 4 doctors tell me not to go back to medical school but I tell you some mornings I can’t wait to see patients and I show up to work early excited for the day.

I feel so lucky to be a physician. And I hope to have enough money to pay off my student loads by the time I am forced to retire due to disability.

Only regret is that I didn’t research my residency a little better.

So another question for everyone who switched into medicine from a non-medical career: What was the best thing you did to get a taste for what the job is really like?

I’ve read a lot of posts from people who were in some type of medical field and switched, but would like perspective from those who went from a completely different career to medicine.

I’m in the process of interviewing docs and plan to do some shadowing with them and an AA program. Would love to hear some tips on getting a real peek into medicine. Thanks!

Thanks, Lanksyb - I’m heartened by your response. All the things you listed describe me.

KY Joe:

After nearly a decade as a high school English teacher, I wanted to change careers and go into medicine - it had been a dream of mine since the age of seven when I first saw the PDR (Physician Desk Reference) on my grandmother’s bookshelf.

I work at a Level I Trauma Center in Los Angeles that has an Independent Student Volunteer Program. There are two tracks: clinical and research. At present I am doing the clinical program, which allows students to design their own program of study, while shadowing doctors and working with patients. I am volunteering on the Trauma Surgery service.

There have been many situations in the last three months that made me realize that medicine is my calling: having a continuity of care with patients in the surgical clinic, acting as a second assistant on a surgical case (actually scrubbing in for a case for that matter), having nurses and ancillary staff refer to me as doctor (probably because I have on scrubs and a pair of bright orange Crocs ). I will never forget the first major trauma that came into the ED: 37 y/o male had been burned over 90% of his body. One attending performed an emergency thoracotomy (sp?) to help the patients airway, while the other did an escharotomy (sp?) to help the skin “breath”. I thought that I would “freak out” but it made me that much committed to being a position to help patients. It was complete organized chaos, with people shouting orders for medicines and asking for procedures to be completed. One of the nurse asked “what year resident are you?” to which I responded “I am a volunteer!” From that moment, I knew I had made the right choice for my volunteer assignment and career.

Before I began this assignment, my perception of becoming a doctor was more anecdotal than based on factual evidence. I completely understand why Adcoms stress that applicants gain “meaningful” volunteer experience, versus specific number of hours. Good luck in your journey towards medicine…it is unlike no other!

I also volunteered in an ER and that sealed the deal for me. Previous career was in print/publishing, nothing to do with medicine. Like TJJ, I also had a fascination for medicine that dated back to childhood, but needed the kind of gut-check you get in the ER to prove to myself (and the adcoms) that this was for real. Twelve years later, I still get a rush going into the ER.

I’ve known a few ex-doctors in my life.

When I was in undergrad for the first time, one of my geology lecturers was previously a psychiatrist (U of Washington MD). When I worked in the computer field, I met a software engineer from Microsoft who used to be an M.D.

Of course, there is the famous case of Michael Crichton, the science fiction author, who graduated from Harvard Med but never really practiced.

Several less-well-known cases are:

Frank Netter, M.D. the medical illustrator.

Arnold Kim, a neurologist, who abandoned his neuro residency to focus on his website,

Lastly, one of the editors or founders of an East Coast literary magazine like the Atlantic or New Yorker used to be a doctor, but I cannot find the reference.