Don't Do it!

No, I’m not going to try to dissuade from going to medical school. But I want to talk about people who do. Okay, I have a problem…I’m an attorney so I’m used to researching, researching, and then doing more research on things. I check out various forums - one of them in particular which is a very informative site has a very populated thread which answers the question “if you could do it over again, would you?.” The answer is a resounding NO! Aside from this thread, it’s not uncommon to see residents and other established physicians looking for alternative careers or part-time work. A lot of people attempted to dissaude me from law school and I went anyway thinking it would be different for me. Here I am in the midst of a changing my profession…Now I see these people and some other doctors in my life telling my parents to have me call them before I make any decisions, I know these doctors and know they are unhappy and I know what they’re going to say…after all, one of them forbade his daughter from going to medical school and told her to go to law school instead. I can guess what his take will be. Of course, even beyond doctors, you get those who paint a bleak and poverty-stricken picture of physicians telling me about horrible reimbursement rates and soaring malpractice premiums. I know there is some truth in this, but I can’t imagine it to be this bad, although I have heard the threats of doctors leaving their beloved profession, I haven’t seen any statistics that back up any mass exodus. I’m also hoping that by the time I graduate some of these problems with all have improved.
Finally, on the other end, you have very optimistic (perhaps like mine) from premeds. The problem is that we haven’t gone through the process yet. Should I take those who have been there word for it? Why would it be different for me? On the other hand, not to offend anyone, but I’m inclined to discount the disenchanted online physicians as well bc I feel that physicians who are looking to online forums for support/advice/assistance tend to be unhappy and therefore seeking out the support. I don’t mean to offend anyone I know many physicians come back to provide help/assistance to those who follow in their footsteps, and maybe some even want to offer a word of warning they wish they had known.
How do I make sense of this? I don’t want to make another career mistake by discounting well-intended advice, but I’m also inclined to believe that each person is different and you have to go in wiht your eyes open and know yourself.

I just try to remember that the unhappy people are the loudest.
Really, someone who is unhappy is going to be more likely to gripe and moan and try to dissuade others from following in their footsteps, to get online and anonymously rage against their system.
The happy people tend not to take the time to share their thoughts. Why? Many reasons- family time, busy at work, not needing/seeking support because they are content, etc.
It’s like that with everything in life. The complaints are many and the compliments few.

My theory is that the biggest complainers are those who have never had any other “real job,” and aren’t aware that all career-track jobs have significant downsides. To be fair, I haven’t really begun the process yet, so I don’t speak from real experience. I’d be interested in knowing if anyone has met doctors who took a non-traditional route and still voice the same complaints.

I’m very much looking forward to testing my theory–getting to med school and residency, and seeing how my perspective differs from that of the kids coming right out of college.

Hey Tris, as I mentioned in my post, I have a serious problem with over-researching this whole thing. I actually tracked down and spoke to a relative of an acquaintance, who like me practiced law for about 2 years, left the profession, to become a doctor. He told me he has no regrets…and he also mentioned that he believes that having a first career prepares you better for some of the inevitable disappointments in medicine. After all, if you leave a 6-figure income to attend medical school, you’d have to be stupid to do it for the money alone. Having worked in another profession gives doctors a more humble perception of other professions and not like theirs is hands-down the hardest…he mentions although he disliked law and certainly did not think it was easy. But having never had another profession, it’s understandable why physicians can get so caught up in the idea that they have it so much harder than anyone else. But if you’ve had another job, you’ll understand that there are a lot of things that follow you everywhere and that sometimes sheer boredom can be horrible thing too.

It’s the same thing with Nursing, if you go to it seems every nurse over there hates nursing with a passion! They even have a special forum called “Would You Recommend Nursing to Other?” and virtually all of the say no they would not recommend it. The difference though with that and Physicians (from what I have found out so far) is the nursing profession does have the stats to back it up…new nurses are leaving in record number after just a few years out, quite sad…
But I agree with the above poster in those that are unhappy scream the loudest. Its no different than when you go to a restraunt to eat and get bad service or bad food you tell just a few people and then word gets around.
Just my thoughts, it’s something I have thought about as well. You will find people who hate there jobs in every field though is the problem. I think you just have to go into with the right motives, it has to be something you are really fascinated by, want to help people from ALL walks of life (those who are poor, who may stink, who are rude, etc) and can’t see yourself doing anything else.
Good question though and it’s something we all should think about, I’ll be interested in reading all the other posts on this, especially from those who are actually working and not just in school.

Hello all,
Just to follow up on what everyone else is saying. I know in my own personal life, everyone is telling me not to quit law school. But I know the law is not for me. When it comes to a given profession. I think you need to know inside you whether it is for you or not. When it comes down to it, only you know what is right for you.
I could talk to a million differnt people, and I assure you that I would get a million differnt answers. When it comes down to it, some people are never happy regardless of what they do. I know I am making the right choice, no matter what anyone says.
I know for me, that I came to law school out of fear, fear of being lazy or trying anything else. I had a one track mind. I have enjoyed this experience, but I know I do not have a passion for it. If you feel passion inside you, then it does not matter what others say, do what makes you happy, whether it is medicine or not.
So many people are unhappy in their given professions, because they never stop to ask themselves why they are doing what they started. Money, prestige, fortune, family, society all play a factor in why so many people are unhappy. American society says you need to make lots of money, and have a big house and cars, and all the modern day comforts, but at what expense? Is it really worth it if you hate what you do?
Many people start things in life because it is easy for them, or they feel it is their only choice. It goes for every profession. I have a freind in med school who was just really smart, and got in. He did not even want to be a doctor, he went because his family told him he had to. I am not sure how he is doing now, but many people with this attitude end up miserable. I know for me that I came to law school because it was easy for me. I really had no passion for the law, I enjoyed my experience, but thats about it.
Many of my freinds/peers in law school have pressured me to stay, even my family. I just got hired at the prosecutors office in Seattle. And all of this is tempting, I have a stable career ahead of me!! Why would I leave all of this? and accumate all of this debt? I almost caved in, but then I realized that I was only attempting to placate them out of my own fear of being a failure. The biggest thing I have learned this year, is that you need to do what you love, and not care about the money, hopefully the money will come. Just my two cents.

"American society says you need to make lots of money, and have a big house and cars, and all the modern day comforts, but at what expense? Is it really worth it if you hate what you do?"
I agree, JDstudent! But I’d add that it is also a uniquely American characteristic to get all caught up in whether you “love” your job or not. People throw words like passion around a lot when they’re talking about careers, especially when a big change of some kind is involved. And Americans are notorious for talking ABOUT their jobs, and looking for new ways to increase their personal, individual satisfaction in life–which, often as not, centers around some job. Personally, however, I think it can be quite helpful (at least I find that it works for me) to try to be somewhat impartial about this stuff, and remember that there is more to life than work.
For example, I know perfectly well that I could get all the way through med school and residency and end up hating my job. I don’t THINK this will happen, because I’ve enojoyed the pre-med process and the stuff up ahead looks like fun to me, BUT it’s always possible.
But why worry about it? If I end up hating my job, I’ll just do it anyway. And I’ll be sure to have some hobbies I really enjoy on side. Anyway, I’d have to work at some job or another regardless–and there aren’t any others I’m really dying to do, other than medicine.
The only time I really got analytical about whether pre-med was going to lead me down the wrong track was before I signed up for Gen Chem 1, and I didn’t know if I had even a shred of science aptitude. I guess I just decided to let the class be the judge of that. But then, I’d also gone through a serious of pathetic, failed attempts at various ill-suited careers, so maybe my expectations were just low!
I don’t know that I really have a major point here, but I do think that it’s impossible for anyone to ever really pin down the “one” thing they’d love doing. Talking to lots of people is good of course, but try to remember that when you’re talking to career-track people, they tend to prioritize career above lots of other stuff.


For example, I know perfectly well that I could get all the way through med school and residency and end up hating my job. I don’t THINK this will happen, because I’ve enojoyed the pre-med process and the stuff up ahead looks like fun to me, BUT it’s always possible.

But why worry about it? If I end up hating my job, I’ll just do it anyway. And I’ll be sure to have some hobbies I really enjoy on side. Anyway, I’d have to work at some job or another regardless–and there aren’t any others I’m really dying to do, other than medicine.

2ndDave, but if you feel this way, then why not stay in your previous jobs? I understand that medicine sounds really appealing to you and the others don’t. But did the others never appeal to you? And if your attitude is that it’s alright not to like/love your job, it’s just a job, then why go through all the trouble and gamble that medicine will prove to be the same as the others?

I see what you mean about not defining yourself by your profession/career - there’s more to life than what you do. But I couldn’t possibly make this big career move if I felt that it’s okay for a job to be just a be a job.

I’m not a workholic by any means, but I don’t want to spend my career trying desparately to define myself outside of job (as you see many lawyers do). I want my job to be part of who I am. I don’t want to feel like I have to be a writer or stand-up comic on the side to prove that I am not just a _______ (in my case, a lawyer).

Well, I didn’t mean to say that I don’t care whether or not I like my job. In fact I care a lot. And the previous jobs I was talking about were pretty bogus. I don’t dispute the importance of a job being likable. I was really only trying to comment on the fact that in American culture, people tend to TALK a lot about finding themselves and being fulfilled with what they’re doing, which was just my follow up comment to the post about Americans thinking they have to have lots of money, a nice car, etc.
I bet there are more books in English on the general subject of career exploration and self-actualization than in just about any other language. That’s just my guess. I’m not making a judgement on that, and of course I could be wrong. But I’ve lived overseas quite a bit, and noticed that this career angst/stress stuff seems to be LESS common elsewhere. I lived in Denmark after I graduated from college, and that’s actually where I decided I wanted to go to med school. My Danish medical student friends seemed a lot less stressed out than the pre-meds I remembered from college! In Denmark it is something of a social faux pas to talk too much about work or school–which, paradoxically, made it a lot easier for me to get to know some of the science students there. And that’s how I started to realize that I might like to be doing what the med students were doing. That’s just one little part of my own personal path towards medicine. But to me it’s important. It didn’t involve any major revelations though. Anyway, I do think it is nice to know that there is more to life than work, and that even if my career aspirations don’t turn out to be the be all and end all of everything, that I still have my family, friends, a sense of humor, and lots of other stuff.
Of course people should like what they do, no doubt about it! How people get there, well, that’s different for everyone.

There are all kinds of people practicing in all kinds of professions.
I’ve known people thrilled with their jobs, and people not thrilled with their jobs.
I’ve had docs try to convince me that I was making a HUGE mistake… of course, these same docs admitted to me that they knew when they were in school, part of the way through, that they shouldn’t be doing what they were doing… and only kept going because it was easier to keep going than to quit.
BTW… I know nurses that are trying like hell to convince others to go into nursing. My dad is one of them… and my childhood best friend is another…my dad especially LOVES his job… and is a workaholic to the core… he’s been trying to convince me to go into anesthesia for quite some time… (he’s a CRNA)…
I digress…
So, as someone else said… the complainers are always the loudest… but both do exist.
Remember that a lot of us (maybe even all of us) have NO interest in money… and are doing this for a multitude of reasons that we may not even be able to explain. So, is there a possibility that you might be unhappy as a physician, sure… there’s always that chance. But there’s also a chance that you’ll be happy…
And of course, if there’s something that you’d rather do, do it…

Dave, I totally see what you mean about the American emphasis on your career/work as life. My escape fantasy is always to run away to Italy and just crush grapes for wine all day…of course, I’d get sick of it in one second, but…I see you what you mean. You have a great attitude about life and career. I was just curious bc if you didn’t really care what you did…I thought there are a million easier paths. But it seems like you’re make a conscious effort to make this journey fun.

If I was reading the same discussion you were, which I’m sure I was, the majority of the opininions were don’t do it. OTOH though, a few older students/residents who started later in life said it was the best thing they ever did.
I PM’ed a couple people on this discussion, because I too think a lot about this decision. Actually, I was a pre-med as a traditional undergrad and all of the doctors I spent time with told me not to go into the field. There were some other issues that convinced me not to, so, I didn’t. Now I regret not going to med school at the time, but it was probably the right decision for me at the right time. I’m sure that I would have been one of those doctors going on about how much paper work there is, how the hours are terrible, all the responsibility blah, blah blah. The thing is, most traditional doctors have not done anything else. Most traditional doctors don’t realize that to be successful in anything, to be good at anything, you have to work long hours, probably have to do a lot of paperwork, and a bunch of undesirable things. At the end of it all, you’re not saving a life, or delivering a baby, or reducing somebody’s suffering. So, I think a lot of non-trads are more satisfied once they go into medicine, because they’ve seen the outside world and they know that it pretty much s*^%s too. This is not to say that there won’t be the odd non-trad that goes in and is dissatisfied, but I think in general, the life experience really helps put the medical career in perspective.

Hi there,

As one of the oldest people who started medical school, I can say most emphatically, " I am having the time of my life being a surgeon." I enjoyed research and I enjoyed teaching but I LOVE to operate. It’s a constant challenge, it’s extreme mentally and physically but it is the most fun that you can have in medicine. I am sitting here in the VA (Veterans Hospital = Hotbed of paperwork) having a great time contemplating that hemicolectomy that I am going to do tomorrow on a gentleman who has a multitude of medical problems. It is going to be a huge “thrash” to get this guy off the table but he has cancer and he elected to have surgery so we proceed. By the time I start the case, I will have rehearsed every move in my mind’s eye before the first cut.

I have little tolerance with folks who aren’t doing what they love to do. Just because you hate your profession doesn’t mean that someone else should be discouraged from pursuing the same profession. We are all different and that makes for different needs. The folks who are the most unhappy in medicine are those who enter the profession for money or ego. There are better ways and easier ways to earn money than surgery or medicine. As for ego, well, it goes on the first day of internship. While surgery is not everyone’s cup of tea, I heartily recommend it!



But I’d add that it is also a uniquely American characteristic to get all caught up in whether you “love” your job or not. People throw words like passion around a lot when they’re talking about careers, especially when a big change of some kind is involved. And Americans are notorious for talking ABOUT their jobs, and looking for new ways to increase their personal, individual satisfaction in life–which, often as not, centers around some job.

Exactly! Pay attention to how people talk about what they do. Most often when you ask someone’s vocation, they reply, “I’m a (fill in the blank).” Really? I have a job, but I am not my job. I always phrase my reply, “I work as …”, not “I am.” The distinction is subtle but meaningful.
My grandfather once told me, “there are no good jobs,” by which he meant every vocation has its downside (it’s hard to quote him without taking his statement out of context!). While he was being over-dramatic, it did help me understand that no job is perfect, and no one loves every minute of it. If you go into anything without being prepared for parts you don’t like, you are going to be sorely disapointed.

Hi Molly, I’ve heard this response many times when people hear that I really don’t enjoy the practice of law and that I’d like to pursue medicine. Frankly, it’s one of the reasons that I struggle with…it’s somewhat scary that I can go through all this only to find myself in the same position - another $100k plus mistake (cost of education). If at the end of it all, I find that these people were right, that no one like their job and it’s just a way to make money to do the things in life you do enjoy, then I figure I’ll give in at that point and stick with medicine. This career-change is a luxury I’m allowing myself, hoping to do something more meaningful with the workdays throughout my life.
My father has also given me similar advice…but I wonder if it’s bc his priorities were different. My father is an immigrant who had a family to support, he didn’t have the luxury of chasing after that dream of loving what he did. He had different priorities. I wonder if this is true for most men…I know we have progressed some in women’s lib, but it’s understood that men will work and provide for their family. Nowadays, women are also expected to work outside of the home, but they still predominate in family-friendly careers such as teaching, librarian, etc. I wonder for a woman, such as myself, who has always made a deliberate choice to have a career and have sacrified quite a bit to get here, if my personal success in that career hinges on enjoying what I do. I’m just not comfortable having a career simply as a means of earning a second-income; that was never my goal. I wanted my career to be something to take pride in. Anyhow, sorry for the gender distinction, but I really think it might make a difference.

You don’t have to take it that far. A “perfect” job would have no aspects you don’t enjoy, but the real world doesn’t work that way. Every job is going to have its downside - the problem is when the downside overwhelms the upside. If you hate your job, you should look into alternatives.
If you think you’re going to love medicine, go for it! What’s the worst thing that will happen? If you really don’t like it, stick with it long enough to pay off your loans and try something else. Don’t forget that a DO or MD degree might open other doors that are closed to you now.
There are few things in life in which the outcome is unalterable. You’ve found that already - you went to law school, discovered you don’t like practicing law, and are moving on to something else. While I’m not saying medical school is a decision to be made lightly, I think people forget that they are not forced to work in a field they hate forever.
I have a degree in Philosophy, worked in technical support and technical writing for 5+ years, and am now a nationally certified massage therapist. While becoming a DO seems like a natural extension of what I do as a massage therapist to me (why yes, I am interested in OMM!) I still get some double-takes. So what? It’s me that I have to satisfy, not everyone else.

I agree! any career has its downsides, however in this society we have the luxury of choosing to do things we like. My father is an immigrant as well, he does not understand why I would want to leave law for medicine.
I can understand if someone chooses to dedicate themselves to their work, even if they hate it. In fact I admire it. My father is an engineer, and I think he must be bored to tears. However his circumstances are different then mine. If I had a kid and a family, I probably would not leave law school, but I dont!
Luckily we have the luxury to choose what we want. We live in a blessed society that many people do not have the oppurtunity to be a part of. That is the great thing about living in North America. My brother always told me to remeber that whatever I do, I will probably be doing it for 40 years!!! I would ask anyone to think of that before they choose a career.

I think what’s being expressed here indicates that the past two decades have seen a devaluing of non-management professional careers in America.

The golden age of (insert your favorite profession here be it law, medicine, flying for the airlines) has ended as corporations have changed the way they do business. This seems to be a universal lament when you speak to professional, regardless of the line of work he/she is in.

It used to be that if you entered the right profession, were dealt a good hand, and played it skillfully, that you could retire a wealthy individual. That era is now in the history books.

As a professional you are expected to shoulder the intellectual and financial burden of (potentially) decades of school/training. You are expected to work harder than people in your field a generation ago did, and do it for less compensation.

In the end, this may actually improve the quality of health care in the United States as people who might have been tempted to pursue medicine for the financial rewards it once brought will instead get MBAs and seek out stock options in the corporate world.

I think life’s just too short to not try to make it some fun, at least if you have the opportunity. Some people put a lot of effort into finding the career they really like, while others focus on hobbies, or their friends and family, or whatever. For me, I figured that even though it was wildly impractical for to leave my writing-type jobs in the past and take these premed classes, well, then, so be it. I figured, either I won’t be much good at the classes and I’ll just go back to what I used to do, or things will work out and I’ll have a new job as a doctor eventually. Now, if I get THAT far and turn out to be miserable, I’m not sure I’ll be able to afford yet another career change. But by then I’d have to be SUCH a disbeliever in career happiness in general that it wouldn’t really matter. (This is where those many philosophy classes I took in college can really come in handy–it’s in the area of attitude adjustment! One day you can be an enthusiast for something, and the next day a stoic.) Anyway, I’d just go to work and do my job, and try to make the best of it.
I think the generational differences in viewpoint vary from family to family, but they’re always there. My parents (and my grandma especially!) thought I was pretty nuts to be going back to school at first, but they’ve come around. If they HADN’T thought it was wierd, I would have been really worried, because it would have been so out of character. I mean, I don’t really want my parents to become sensitive new-agers all of a sudden. They are all stick-with-one-thing kind of people, and the immigrant mentality is still there too.
Well anyway, when you have the chance to try something you really want to, then go for it is what I say!

It all boils down to: “Can you see yourself doing anything other than medicine”? For me the answer is no. I see patients once a week at a clinic and I love it. You may not be able to know that for sure as a pre-med.
Non-trad grads do have the advantage of perspective.
We’ve been in the real world and know that nothing is easy or without serious drawbacks. Medicine is hard and we are getting our butts kicked by lawyers now, but I wasn’t in medicine in the good old days so I can’t really miss them. Many of the forum posters are refugees from the IT or Tech world, which have some of the most miserable careers possible. My former life was truly a hellish Dilbert cartoon, something many of you can identify with. Nothing medicine can do to me can compare.

There’s also an advantage to being an adult student that I’ve never seen mentioned here: I get taken much more seriously by patients, attendings, etc. than my child-doctor classmates. Amusingly, I have gone to wards in my white coat and RESIDENTS come up and ask me to sign off on their patients. I then get to say “Umm, no. I’m a first year.”