My name is Diana. I am almost 29 and have a BA degree in Spanish with concentration in translation, which I finished at the end of 2008.
I am in the very VERY early stages of embarking in this crazy journey. But before I do, I want to make absolutely sure that this is IT and that I wont stop in the middle.
Recently, and all of a sudden I started thinking about where I want to go in life and this idea of becoming a doctor has not left my mind since.
To be quite honest, I want to be sure that this is not just a thought and that it is really what I want to do. I have been reading a lot about the requirements, what is life like for a med student (specially for a non-trad med student), MCAT, applications, interviews, etc.
I feel this really strong desire to start (with the hope of one day becoming a pediatric surgeon), but want to make absolutely sure that this is it. I wonder whether I will ever know for sure… Has anyone felt this doubtful before going through with it? Or is it for you guys this definite, I-know-exactly-what-I-wan t-and-will-go-for-it type of decision?
The decision to pursue a career as a doctor is probably one of the most important decisions you will ever make simply because of the time and financial investments involved.
As someone who is early in the process as well, I struggled with this for months before solidifying my decision. I’m 32, and the thought of spending my thirties in school…AGAIN, has never been an easy pill to swallow. Most of my friends are married, starting families, buying their first homes and here I am, single, no house, no kids and getting ready to embark on some insane journey into the world of medicine!
This journey is a lot of hard work and takes a lot of time, planning, juggling, persistence and resilience. After graduation and residency the work continues…not just with your patients in day to day practice, but in continuing education, recertification and staying current with new medicines, technologies, research and procedures.
This is a lifelong journey that only ends when you retire.
What I did to help me get past my doubts was to face head-on the ugliest parts of the process. I told myself that if I couldn’t handle the worst part about med school, residency, and becoming a doctor…this field is not for me. I asked myself the following:
- Can I handle how old I will be when I’m done and finally pass my boards and start practicing? Will I have the stamina to handle the insanely long workshifts during residency?
This will give you a VERY sobering view of the workload ahead of you. The more clear you are about the whole process, the better prepared you will be to embark on it. This will keep you from “stopping in the middle” because you did your homework beforehand.
- Are there any factors in my life at the moment that I need to consider before embarking on this adventure like family, a husband or wife, bills, a job, etc?
- Do I understand the costs involved? In addition to any undergraduate expenses I’m currently carrying, I can expect anywhere from 150K to 300k+ in debt after leaving school and residency. Am I OK with this? Will my income support paying off my student loans at the end?
- The workload will be intense, especially in the first year. Once in medical school, it’s important to secure my spot by getting solid grades. The good grades don’t stop once I get in. They will matter when I apply for residencies as well. Can I handle an intense courseload and perform well?
- Interview a few physicians about the specialty you want to pursue. We all know docs make great money, are respected, have nice perks, etc. However, medicine is hardly as glamorous as it is portrayed on television. Talk to some doctors as ask them what their biggest regrets are about choosing medicine. The idea behind this is to demystify any preconceived notions about the field. If you make this decision ill-informed, it will come back to bite ya.
- Can I handle competition and competitive people? Can I handle making mistakes in front of my peers without having a meltdown?
At the end of the day, ask yourself, “What are the BIGGEST, UGLIEST factors involved in this
If you cannot handle the worst aspects of the process, you have your answer about whether you should pursue medicine.
The bottom line is that for many, there is a lot of glamour about the thought of becoming a physician, but it is a ton of hard work over a long period of time.
But I think most doctors will tell you, if you want it bad enough, you’ll make any sacrifice within reason to achieve it.
I really hope this helped and I wish you the best of luck.
Post again if you have anymore questions!
First of all, welcome to OPM, Diana! And congratulations on beginning this journey. In terms of doubts … those are completely understandable. As the previous poster said, you want to evaluate things and make sure this is REALLY what you want, because it is a LONG haul. Lots of school, lots of debt, lots of work. But there is a huge payoff, for those who really want it.
From my perspective, the best thing to do is get some experience in the medical field. Shadow physicians to see what they really do. Do some volunteer work. With your background in Spanish and translating, you could volunteer (or perhaps get a paid position) as a medical Spanish translator – I am currently volunteering in that capacity at a free clinic in Chicago, and I absolutely LOVE it. Feel free to message me if you want to know more about my experiences there. (I don’t have a degree in Spanish, but I am fluent after many courses throughout high school and college, and a semester abroad in South America during college.) I highly recommend this type of position, as you get great clinical experience and can really see what it’s like on the front lines of medicine. You also get great exposure to physicians, nurses, etc. I’ve made some great contacts, and recently got a shadowing opportunity through my volunteering at the clinic. So it’s also about networking.
Anyway, those are my thoughts.
Best wishes to you!
P.S. I am also 29.
KWCMD’s analysis is very thorough and appropriate. However, in truth you will never be absolutely certain. But then, some risk in inherent in any great adventure. At some point though, you will know the choice is basically right or wrong. 10 years out and 2 years into practice I still have days when I wonder: “what was I thinking?” But overall I know it was right.
To barrow a quote from Bilbo Baggins: “It’s a dangerous business setting out your door. If you don’t keep your feet there is no telling where you will be swept off to”
Good luck with your quest, no matter how it turns out.
It seems to me that a couple of hundred hours of shadowing different doctors would go a very long way toward answering the question. You should do the shadowing as part of your med school application, anyway (and probably for this very reason), so it’s a worthwhile investment.