I am having serious doubts about med school.

Hello everyone,

I was accepted to med school and am now having serious doubts about going. I have worked for the last two years to have a chance to become a physician and now that it is approaching I am filled with nothing but uncertainty. I am 31 years old and am afraid that my freedom will be lost once I begin this long road. I am not married with nothing to lose but time.

The other day I shadowed an IM physician and felt so neutral about the experience. All those years of training just to spend 10 minutes with a patient. I was waiting for something to ‘click’ reminding me why I chose this. But it didn’t. I was accepted to an offshore school and the start date is mid January. I am completely afraid of the work, the sacrifice and the feeling of being trapped. I feel as if medicine has chosen me, but this has been such a long road I have forgotten what I am doing. My other option is to do a PhD in nutrition with the goal of teaching and research.

I would like to hear from everyone, but am interested in hearing from those who are close to graduating or in internship/resisdency.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

There is much more to medicine than what you experienced in an outpatient setting of the IM’s office. Just this year in my own rotations I have discovered that there are many diverse opportunities where many different “types” of people can find their niche.
When I was living the long days of my surgery rotation (where everyday feels like a week at first), I thought “What have I gotten myself into? I gave up a career I was really good at for this.” I found watching surgeons sew vessels for hours on end painfully boring and wishing to actually talk to patients versus just barging in their room at the crack-of-dawn to rip off their bandage. But then I moved on from vascular surgery and transplant surgery to anesthesia only to find myself surprised at how much I loved anesthesia. I then said to myself that anesthesia was something I would be very content to spend the rest of my life doing. I just loved how you analyze treatment in anesthesia; plus there are many avenues you can pursue, such as critical care, pain management, hospice (my long-term goal), etc.
I just finished my psychiatry rotation where I discovered that I loved spending the time to talk to patients and really get to know them and their psychosocial history. While I don’t think I want to do psych full time, I discovered part of why certain specialties (i.e. medical oncology) are appealing to me. I thought I was going to hate psych, but I truly surprised myself.
I have a classmate who has vowed to do research, and he will be very good at it. He freely admits that he is less comfortable in direct patient contact, but sees an MD degree as the means to give him a good perspective and entrance into research. So research and teaching are very much options with an MD.
I say all of this to let you know that there are so many opportunities in medicine outside of what most of us see in our travels to med school. In these past four months of clerkships, I have discovered various niches in medicine and am discovering more with each passing week. While I wasn’t always certain that I would find my place in this vast sea of medicine, I feel confident that I will in time as I gain more experiences.
Hope this helps,

Hi there,
The great thing about attending medical school as Tara so eloquently stated above, is that medical school gives one options. You can opt for almost any specialty that gives you patient contact (surgery, peds, IM, FP etc.) or you can opt for specialties that give less patient contact (anesthesia, pathology, radiology). Some specialties are very technical and procedure oriented (surgery, anesthesia, interventional rads) and some have hardly any procedures at all (Physical Medicine and Rehab). You can choose to work with an older population (geriatrics) or the very youngest (neonatology). There are so many options that you can what you like best and do it. You can take a surgical approach to treating diseases of the brain (neurosurgery) or you can take a medical approach (neurology, psychiatry).
You may want to think about some of the things that brought you to apply to medical school in the first place. If your reasons are not the same, you may want to do something else with your life. Right now, (I have been practicing for 2 1/2 years) I can’t imagine my life without doing surgery or medicine.
Try to get some other experiences other than IM clinic and see how you feel. If you don’t have the interest, then find something outside medicine that you can love and will satisfy your needs.

I wonder if this is more about the numerous changes that you are facing soon rather than the decision to enter into medicine…sometimes people (myself included) balk when facing a huge change–and it sounds like it would be one for you on many levels—changing geographically and being way otuside of your comfort zone.
Perhaps having backup plans A B and C will ease some of that claustrophobia. Perhaps your fears are based on the uknown of what to expect there–is there any way to communicated with someone who has been through the program?
Focusing on one shadowing to evaluate whether or not you want to do this leads me to suspect that there are other concerns and issues here…could you do more shadows of a different nature to give yourself more exposure on which to evaluate your intent?
Your support system might be limited when you are overseas–is there a way you can keep in close touch with those folks who support you when you are stressed? If you have ease at making friends you should be able to make more friends while you are there…if not it might be more of a challenge. The loneliest part of school, I am convinced, is the first 2 weeks until rapport is established with teachers and other students. Sometimes writing a list of pros and cons helps…Good luck in your decision making and please keep us posted!
E Lynne

I’m not going to use “kid gloves” here. I wish I could say that I can empathize, but I really can’t. I’ve been a parent since 17 and have had virtually no “Freedom” of my own. That was my decision, as this will be yours. Point being, 5 years ago, I started busting my a** to get into med school. At 34, I received my first and only interview (so far) only to be rejected. Bottom line, you’ve come this far, you have the opportunity which many of us our clawing away for…don’t waste it. Besides, you’ve been at it far too long to decide that medicine will be an infringement on your personal time. It should be irrelevant if you’re truly passionate about medicine. Ultimately, it’s your choice but coming from someone, who’s still on the outside: You’ve earned a rare opportunity so take advantage of it!
Hope to see you on the inside.

I guess it really comes down to what you like to do.
I love flying airplanes. I loved shadowing the family practice doctors I’ve shadowed this year. I don’t mean any offense when I say this because you clearly must like Nutrition to consider doing a PhD in it. But for me, doing the latter would be the equivalent of a 3 year long rectal exam of the mind.
See if you can postpone your admission to med school one semester so you can start in the fall. This shouldn’t be a problem from an administrative standpoint.
At 31 you’ve got all the time in the world (I’m 35, and the reaper is four years closer to catching me than you). Take a month this summer to find yourself. When you do, you’ll have your answer.

No question but that it is a huge undertaking, a daunting commitment, a life-altering decision. Given all that, of COURSE you have doubts. I would question your grip on reality if you didn’t. My first reaction on getting accepted was elation - followed in, oh, ten seconds by "Oh SH!T What have I done?"
The first two years of medical school in particular can be grueling. I often questioned what on earth i’d gotten myself in for. Fortunately for me, about the time I’d be ready to chuck in the towel, I’d do an afternoon of seeing patients with my preceptor and love it - and remember, "oh yeah this is why I wanted to go to med school!"
If you don’t have clinical experiences during your basic science years, it’ll be tough, but it is NOT that long. You just put your head down and push through it.
The real reward is when you get to third year rotations. Sure, it’s hard, it’s demanding, you’ll be putting in longer hours than in most other lines of work but it is SO COOL. What I really loved about third year was that there was something fascinating and enjoyable about every single rotation I did. I thought pediatrics would be boring - nope, I learned all sorts of interesting things. I figured I would hate surgery - I really, really liked it. I thought I would be frustrated by the broad parameters of family practice and since I’m a person who likes to focus on one thing at a time, I thought the constant switching gears between kids, adults, well check-ups, sick visits, psyc stuff, etc. would be horrible. To my shock and pleasure, that was what I LOVED about family medicine and look where I am today…
I thought I’d like the intellectual challenge of internal medicine. Instead I found it tedious and painful (good thing I’d been pleasantly surprised by FM!). I thought that, given too much experience with psych in my family of origin, that I’d hate psych and I really liked it. Probably the only rotation where my expectations and reality were about the same was OB (didn’t expect to like it, didn’t like it very much).
Now as an intern, let me tell you that although it gets really old to get up at 4:30 in the morning and take call every four nights, I LOVE what I am doing. The other night walking through the loooooong corridor that connects the two parts of my hospital, I was actually singing to myself, “I am having so much fun!” Okay so I am a Pollyanna, I admit it. But there is no cooler job in the world for me.
Also don’t forget that, if you go to med school and you really, truly, honestly, wholeheartedly hate it - you can bail. It’s not like you’re going to Parris Island with the Marines. They will let you leave. Yes, you’ll be out some $$ and you’ll have to pay it back. It would suck way worse to keep borrowing money, end up with your M.D., STILL hate it and have that much more to pay back.
So go. Know that lots of us have wondered, holy crap, am I cut out for this? For me at least, the answer is, OH YEAH I love being a doctor!

I agree with you. The first two years are grueling. I was lucky in that I attended TCOM where we were exposed to clinical medicine in our first and second years.
After 25 years of practice, I still love Family Practice. Yes, it’s changed a lot since I first started. but, I still receive gratification every day knowing that, I affect the lives of my patients. The love and respect we receive as primary health providers is well worth the pain and agony of going through the medical training process.
I would pray, that enough of the new generation, will seek the same path.

One time being bored, I listed over twenty avenues to persue in medicine off the top of my head, not even considering the different specialties of surgery. There’s something for EVERYONE! Some people go the MD, DO route only to find that they’d rather do something else in the medical field.

Wow, this is an old thread that you resurrected! I wonder what the OP ever decided to do…