Hitting A Wall

Hi there. I’m looking for a bit of perspective and am hoping that some of you out there will be willing to put in your two cents.

I have been chipping away at a DIY Post-Bacc for 3-4 years while working full-time and taking care of my two little boys. I took the MCAT in September and am gearing up to apply to med school this year. What worries me is as I write and rewrite my personal statement, continue to gain volunteer experience, and finish up my last year of courses, I find that I’ve lost a mountain of motivation. When I started this journey I was driven, inspired, and determined to go to become an MD. Now I am constantly second-guessing myself, mainly because I’m worried about what it will do to my family and my relationship with my kids.

Because of my situation, if I get into med school I will be moving an hour away from my husband and kids with no expected plan for them to move along with me. I will do everything I can to maintain a good relationship with everyone I love, but given the stresses and time vortex that is medical school, I worry that what I give will not be enough for me to not feel extreme guilt for choosing my passion over my family, even though we will all ultimately benefit in the end (hopefully). I’ve been thinking of other avenues I can take while still being part of the health care community (I’m very interested in working with hospice or in a nursing home) and they all sound appealing, but I also wonder if I’m leaning in those alternate directions because they would just be easier and quicker and I already feel a sense of burn out around managing family life, work, and school.

My decision to continue to pursue or back away from medical school is my own and is a personal one, but I wonder if anyone else has struggled with this and how they’ve thought through it. I’m fully aware that this may just a rough spot I need to push through. But I don’t want to invalidate these thoughts just because they’re counter to what I’ve been working towards for the past few years. I’m not sure if I’m dealing with a true change of heart or a few weeks of weariness.

Can you commute the hour? Move half way and split the commute with your spouse?

Depending on what school you go to and how they set up their curriculum, you could totally pull off going to school an hour away from your home. There’s at least one guy in my class who physically lives over an hour away from the school because his wife works in another city (or goes to school or something). He can do this because a) we have very few classes that are mandatory attendance, b) all of our lectures and course ware can be accessed via the internet, and c) he made friends in the class who will let him crash at their place before early morning attendance-required events, ie tests. Granted, it will only work for the first 2 years, and I’m not exactly sure what he’s going to do once we start rotations… A one hour commute sucks, but it’s doable if it’s what you want to do. My last job, I lived about 50 minutes + traffic away from work and it wasn’t the end of the world. You could listen to recorded lectures during the drive to make effective use of the drive time.

As you know, in the end you have to do what is best for you and your family. I deferred a year, and you can bet that I had second thoughts about whether or not to give up what would’ve been an easy 6-figure job (airline pilot). It came down to lifestyle and job satisfaction for me and my family. As long as you’re going through the brutal journey for a reason, it’s all worth the sacrifice. At least that’s what I’m banking on…

I live about almost exactly an hour away from my school (with no traffic). The way that my wife and I manage is that I have a dorm room on the school campus and I stay there about 3 nights a week so that I can spend some time during the week focused solely on school, and so I’m not spending 2+ hours a day, every day on the road. It’s not ideal, but if there’s something I need to be home for, I’m not that far away, and being able to focus my time during the week means that I don’t spend my weekends studying. We chose to do it this way due to having more family support where we live, and the cost of living and public schools being generally better where we are, and I’m planning on living at home for 3rd/4th year.

That said, I’ve been spending a lot less time attending lectures this semester, so I’m pondering giving up the dorm room after this semester, and only driving in for mandatory events. The other thing that is keeping me going is that there is a clinical rotation site for us in the city I live in, so ideally I can do most of 3rd and 4th year living at home.

The way we do things may not work for everyone, but it is working ok for us so far.

I’ve “hit the wall” so many times during my time on this site (10 years?), that I’ve left a HUGE dent in it! I think that’s just par for the course as a parent with higher educational goals especially if you’re the “wife”.

Now I’ve just learned to know when to done the ol’ helmet so the impact isn’t so bad! :lol:

There’s no ideal solution to your dilemma, but in the scheme of things, medical school is not your wall, if you can get into the school that is only an hour away from home. You’ll make that work. I would be more concerned about matching far from home. I know that for me, I only decided to pursue medical school when my husband was on board with the idea of moving wherever this process takes us. I was lucky enough to gain acceptance to my top choice school 20 minutes from home, but residency is another story altogether.

Thanks for your comments and input, everyone. I didn’t realize how flexible med school can be in the first 2 years. bennard, do you find that you miss out on important information by not attending all of the lectures? Also, my top choice school has a less traditional but maybe more “modern” curriculum where clinical experience is integrated early on. I imagine that mean that I would need to be on campus more often than someone in a traditional format where clinical experience is relegated to 3rd and 4th year (I apologize if any of that sounds ignorant since I’m not writing from a position of experience). I’ve heard that it’s common to study 70 hours a week in med school. Is it possible to not have weekends consumed by studying when there is family to tend to?

Kennymac, I always appreciate your take on things. I wonder if my reasons for going through the “brutal journey” are changing, which is my highest-level concern. I’m trying to figure out if the way I want to make an impact can be done in a different yet still fulfilling way, particularly in a way that won’t be as taxing on my family and I yet leave me feeling satisfied 5, 10, 20 years down the line. I’ve never been good at fortune telling and I have a fickle mind so it’s a big concern.

njtrimed, I didn’t think about matching. Hmm, another layer to work through…

How much you study is kind of dependent on you: how quick you learn, how much you procrastinate, how quickly you forget, etc…

During anatomy, I was at the hospital from about 8am until 6pm either in class or studying on my own. Once I was home, I was home and didn’t do any school stuff unless everyone else was in bed. Weekends I would put in a few hours each day until test time, which would ramp up the time in the lab trying to get ready for the practical. After anatomy, I have a little bit more free time. I end up studying a lot because I want to retain as much as possible while the class is covering it to hopefully minimize the pain come STEP study time. Other people have fun on weekends, go on trips, etc until test time and cram as much as they can. We just had a soul-crushing test, and there were at least 3 people (I don’t keep up with that many in my class) that were out of town or had family in for Easter. Lots of different study strategies seem to work, we’ve only lost 1 person thus far and can’t really blame the school on it.

For what it’s worth, my curriculum does a clinical-exposure type class among other non-science-specific courses (ie ethics) during the first 2 years. Since anatomy, we on average have about 12 hours of mandatory class during the week, but only for about 2 weeks out of the month. Every school is different though…


bennard, do you find that you miss out on important information by not attending all of the lectures? Is it possible to not have weekends consumed by studying when there is family to tend to?

I really don’t feel like I’m missing much. Our school records most of our lectures and they’re available for us to watch later, so if there’s something that I feel I’m not understanding well, I can go back and rewatch that lecture (and usually at 2x speed). Personally, I get more out of having 4 (or more) hours in the day that I can spend studying on my own. On average, it takes me 2-3 hours per hour of independent study per hour of lecture to go through and read, begin to synthesize the material and make my notes. I’ll do that if I attend lecture or not. So, if I attend lecture, I’ve spent 4 hours in the classroom, and then need to spend another 8 hours after that. That means I’m usually not done until 9 or 10 at night (with taking some breaks and eating, etc). If I skip lecture, I can usually be done by 4 or 5 pm, leaving the rest of the evening free, or I can use that time to review material from prior days.

I really do try and focus my time during the week so that I don’t feel that I have to study over the weekends. If I do study on the weekends, it’s usually a few hours late in the evenings after the kids are in bed. Exceptions are weekends prior to tests, and I usually do devote some time on those weekends to help prepare for the exams.

My school have some mandatory lectures where they would take attendance, but most stuff was recorded and not mandatory so i’d say that by the end of second year there was a core of about 30-40 of us that still actually showed up to lecture. We did it because that’s how we studied best, plus we could ask questions about things we were confused about without having to email and wait for a response.

As someone that is moving from one coast to the other for residency… matching is very unpredictable. If you want something competitive you’re going to apply broadly. But really don’t worry about it until you get there. I have a friend that matched 15 minutes from her current home. She only applied in state mainly in the nearby area to her current home. She’s in a non-competitive specialty (FM) which is what made that possible.

Persistence is a huge factor in succeeding in medical school. People that have determination to keep pushing through the material, through the clinical hours, are the ones who succeed. You need to be honest with yourself about if you want it, because if you don’t it’s kinda pointless to put yourself through it (It’s tough!). It’s totally possible to do with a family. I have many classmates who have families, some with really young children. If you have the support from your spouse, family and friends it helps take a lot of stress off, and being organized is key.

Good luck to you in your journey!