Intro: 30-something NP with a tough decision

Hi guys,

I’m so glad to have discovered this community. I actually lurked on the board back in 2011 when I was completing a post-bacc, but then life brought about some pretty big changes and I ran out of steam. Never ended up taking the MCAT and I prematurely ended my pre-med journey in Spring 2013. I did manage to complete all of my prereqs with a solid GPA.

A little bit of background: I’m a 31 year old NP. RN for 3 years, NP for 7. I’ve worked in primary care and now I work in surgery. I’m single with no children. I live in a city I absolutely love, have a good work/life balance with plenty of hobbies, I’m financially comfortable and have great people in my life. I’m in a good place! Life is good.

So why the heck would I want to give that all up to go back to being a broke, stressed out student?

Because I can’t silence my gut. It’s actually starting to take on a very aggressive tone.

Believe me, I’ve tried to ignore it. I’ve tried different and challenging NP roles. Filled my life with fun hobbies, telling myself that my work/life balance justifies my staying in the NP role. The truth is, I’ve spent the better part of my 10 year career wondering what it would be like to be a physician. To have that depth of knowledge changes the entire way you approach patient care. I’ve been lucky to have had some amazing physician mentors that have demonstrated the way medicine should be practiced (I’ve also been exposed to some not-so-great docs…still a great learning experience!). I love medicine. I’m on an absolute high when I get home after a challenging surgical case. I find everything about the human body fascinating and I’m so fortunate to work for a surgeon that loves to teach. Nothing evokes more passion in me than when I’m learning about the human body. I want to know it all. I’m getting emotional even writing this (lol). :*)

Life is so funny. As a college student I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve always had a knack for science and sort of just stumbled into healthcare. But there was no way I was ready to commit to medical school at that age (and maturity level!). I think a benefit of being an “Old PreMed” is the ability to approach a daunting task with an entirely different perspective and level of appreciation. It’s not applying to a program because you “think” it’s what you want to do or because you want to make other people proud. Sure, some people know at 20 that they want to become a physician. But I think for a lot of people, you really do need to know yourself well enough to know if medicine is your true passion. The happiest physicians I know are the ones that honestly can’t think of anything they’d rather do than practice medicine, even on the worst of days. There are so many other careers with a much quicker course of preparation, a bigger payoff, less liability, and no stressful life/death decisions. Sometimes I wish one of those careers was my calling. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve struggled a lot with the decision to pull the trigger (i.e. take the MCAT and apply) because I will be sacrificing so much by choosing to embark on this journey. I’m incredibly analytical (to a fault, at times) so there’s a part of me that’s saying “don’t rock the boat, life is good”. But my biggest fear is riding out another 10 years as an NP and finding myself at 40, not a physician, and wishing I would have just done it while I had the freedom (single, no kids).

Sorry for the SUPER long, rambling post. I’d love to hear from those of you who really struggled with the decision to give up “good” to pursue fulfillment.



Extremely high on MCAT and all pre-reqs., and only apply in the State you live, and if all of that goes well and you are accepted you will be on golden street for a surgeon Resident. I would be less likely to do it for much less of a job. the rub is that if you do MD, even as a GP, when you want to change careers you can move around the world some in research or teaching at a college with an MD. Less so with an NP. You lose revenue and accrue a loan, but your experience with good USMLE scores would get you to a specialty, but 5 years later??? Time is precious, but you are young, so do it now or not too much later. If you can retire with a pension(usually means only one place and no laws protect Americans if that changes hands), then do it, which is better yet, then to med-school with a pension in place, but not likely any pay. Most companies change hands to avoid pensions, and many states give pensions at the 5 year and 10 year mark as mandatory, but not too much money, but a stipend enough for rent and food if your state law requires it.

Hi Cali,

I don’t have any great advice to offer, because I’m in a similar position as you - except I don’t have my pre-reqs done, nor am I an NP. But I can empathize because I’ve thought many of the same things you have - for example, what if this feeling in my gut doesn’t go away and in 10 years I’m regretting not taking action now? (I’m 30 years old now.)

A couple of observations that have been helpful to me:

  • We are more likely to hear from physicians that hate their jobs than those that love their jobs, so the sample is skewed. Also, you are probably really familiar with the medical setting given that you’re an NP, so you have seen the best and the worst that being a physician has to offer. If you still want to be a physician after seeing the worst of it, that’s probably a good sign that you should go for it.
  • The fact that you’ve been considering this, you’ve done so much research on it, and you are STILL interested in making the change? That’s exceptional. Consider any other career change - if you were to decide to be a teacher, or a pilot, or a financial expert - how much research do you think it would take to be able to rule it out? If you’ve been researching this for years and haven’t been able to rule it out, that’s probably another good sign that it’s worth pursuing.

    It’s been helpful for me to tell myself that at least if med school doesn’t work out, I have a backup career. It’s also been helpful to follow bloggers who are in medicine and seem to have happy, full lives (even as they weather the storm of med school/residency). If you want some specific instagram accounts/blogs, let me know.

    One last thing - as far as taking the plunge, I’ve told myself that I will never know with exact certainty whether I’m making the right move. There’s no magical moment when I’ll know I’m doing the right thing. Maybe that’s not very reassuring, but it’s a good reason not to delay what feels like it’s meant to be!

    Good luck,


Thanks for the post, good to hear I’m not the only one with this dilema (thought I was crazy).I’m 39 and have had a great career as a firefighter paramedic for 18 years. 7 years ago want back to college and completed my BS in Biology. MCAT next but since then lost some drive thinking I should stick it out where I’m at to max out my pension.

Problem is similar to yours I can’t shake the thought of persuing med school. Has been for over 15 years. Also have a ton of hobbies all great but not ultimately fulfilling and challenging enough (ski, surf, climbing, fishing, iron man triathlons).

Stick it out where I’m at and end up with a cushie pension, plenty of free time and money or get into dept, struggle with time and money to persue a passion and what I believe a calling. I fear that if I don’t 12 years from now when I’m retired and older I’d rehret not taking that leap.