My name is Eric and I’m an x-ray tech in the Houston area. I’ve been working in medicine for about 3 years and have been interested in becoming a doctor ever since my clinical days. It’s something I had never considered before hand, but once I got a taste of clinical medicine, I found it endlessly facinating and still do.
I am married and have a step daughter, and there in lies my dilemma. My wife is a nurse and a wonderful and supportive partner, however, when the issue of furthering my education veers in the direction of med school, it does not end well. She has an undeniably valid argument, that med school is an enormous sacrifice of time and energy and that would more than likely infringe heavily on my time with her and our daughter.
I can’t argue that point away, I know she is completely right. Is there anyone here who has delt with a similar situation, trying to convice a spouse to support your desire to become a doctor? If so and you were successful, how did you balance time between your commitments to both sides? This is such a difficult topic to bring up between the two of us, and I generally find myself avoiding it to spare us a fight. I have a lot of work to do before I would even be ready for the MCAT let alone med school, so timing is not imparitive, but at some point I’ll have to make a really good case or kiss my dream goodbye.
Thanks in advance for any advice, or if you just post to say hi. This is such a wonderful, supportive community and I’ve gleaned so much information just by browsing the forums. I want to say thank you to everyone here for that!
Hi and welcome! I am the furthest thing from a marriage counselor, however, here goes. Based on what you have shared, I feel that you would be better served if you find ways to express to your wife how important her support would be to you instead of focusing on ways to counter her argument. I understand that you would like to support your argument, but in doing so you will enter into a power struggle with your wife and get nowhere. It sounds like you are married to a very good woman, so my advice would be to explain to her what becoming a doctor means to you and try to help her see passed the sacrifices of getting there. In order to be successful on the journey, you will need her support. You will not gain her support by arguingâ€¦maybe she has a deeper fear beyond the sacrifice of family time?
Hello Eric! I’m going to offer my two cents, despite the fact that I am not married and do not have any children. Based on what you have shared, and I’m in agreement with the other responder to this question, I feel that if this is in fact your dream, if this is a burning desire that refuses to yield, and if you feel you have the drive and motivation to pursue this dream than you need to find some way of conveying that to your wife. The choice to embark upon this quest, like your wife acknowledges, requires one hell of a commitment. It will necessarily infringe upon both the quantity and quality of time you will be able to spend with your family. Sometimes more, sometimes less. However, this goes without saying. You, I, and everyone on this forum readily acknowledge this fact. I can only speak for myself, but I suspect something other than merely wanting to become M.D.s or D.O.s motivates and propels the vast majority of non-traditional, older med students along this journey. It follows that the time commitment doesn’t serve as an insuperable obstacle. When discussing this with your wife, you should try to articulate your enthusiasm and passion for making this decision. You may not win her over in the end, but at least you will have turned the issue from a debate or argument into an actual conversation.
Hi Oxfordj and welcome to OPM! I love that C.S. Lewis quote by the way.
DETDR, thank you very much for the welcome. I’ve yet to introduce myself formally in the forum, but have been a lurker for around a week and a half. This site and its participants have given me much to ruminate about.
And the Lewis quote…I have yet to find a piece of wisdom to come out of that man’s mouth that has not been enlightening, lol.
Thank you both for responding and for the great advice. Changing how I approach the subject is a very good idea. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just being selfish with my desire to become a doctor and putting my family through years of possible hardship and certain compromise. However, I know I can do it, and I know we will all be better for it. I want to help people, and while I do now and there are plenty of other ways to achieve that end, becoming a doctor is the best possible way I feel I can, especially in primary care, my desired specialty.
Any other advice is welcome and encouraged, so please don’t be shy!
Have you considered becoming a PA? You would sacrifice much less time away from your family for school, no MCAT, and you would certainly fulfill helping people and working in a directly clinical position. Moreover, as a PA you can spend more time as a PCP than many primary care Dr.'s.
Might be a very worthwhile compromise between your family and your ambitions.
I am married and have two kids (2 and 5). First you can’t do this if your wife is not onboard. Second, I’d think about her fears. A discussion with her about your desire is more about her issues. So you can always start with something like: “well let’s just give it a shot. I am going to take the pre-reqs classes at a reasonable pace, set time aside for us and we’ll take it from there”.
Now there will be times you will be stressed, impatient, nervous and the smallest spark will trigger a fight. But, once you start and assuming your wife let’s you try, things slowly set in to the point where the time invested doesn’t allow you to drop the project.
So reassure her, tell her that you will set time for her. You can also offer to do something for her in return, or allow her to do something she wants.
Don’t try to argue too much, take her out to diner, discuss it in a situation where both spirits are appeased. You can’t and won’t force her into this, but you can show her that her fears are not all rationale, acknowledging that yes, it is a time commitment, but not undoable.
Heck, Gabe has 4 daughters and made it out of med school. So you can certainly to this.
How about PA? (I think someone else mentioned this as well.)
I would not have gone down this path without the full support of my husband, because you need to have it. Part of the reason he is so supportive is because of my passion for it, and because he knew why I didn’t go into medicine before. I can honestly tell you money was not a factor - I’m leaning very heavily towards primary care, and would have had greater financial success had I stayed in web development and built my own business.
You need to have a discussion with your spouse that involves you LISTENING to their concerns. Don’t just throw out an easy answer, but write each one down and consider them on your own time. Later, if you can give valid reasons to her, and convince her that your passion will be good for your family, than great.
If not, then for the good of your marriage and your family, consider another route that will. The PA suggestion may provide the time you need for your family, while fulfilling your personal desire for clinical experiences.
Thanks for the replies everyone, and sorry I haven’t responded sooner. Ultimately, I do have plenty of time to make my case. I think that I have a better shot at her coming around as she gets more used to the idea while I make my way through lingering prereqs and such. I know she cares and wants me to be happy, but this is a sacrifice on her part as well that obviously she needs time to consider.
Redo - very insightful post, and I am supporting her in a career change at this moment. I had encouraged her to go on to becoming an NP at the urging of several docs she works with, but she has no real desire to go back to school. Instead she is going a more entrepreneurial rout (2 routs actually), plying her nursing skills and experience in ways I think she will really enjoy and be successful at.
On the PA option that has been mentioned, yes, I have considered that almost as long as I’ve considered med school. In fact, my wife has been more receptive to this idea. However, after researching the intricacies of both, I’ve learned that you really need to be honest with yourself about which path you are interested in taking, one is simply not the other, and if your heart is set on practicing as a doctor it’s disingenuous to consider PA as a sort of “runner up” option to practicing medicine. Though I’m sure there are plenty of people who have pursued PA as such, their community in general see themselves as more than just a shorter path to practicing medicine, and I have to agree with them. That being said though, it was a good suggestion, and was exactly why I looked into PA in the first place. After learning what I had about them though, it was clear that they want PAs who want to be PAs, not as an alternative to being a doc for whatever reason an applicant might have. Of course, many PAs also want a path to MD/DO opened for them if they choose, so clearly the option of becoming a doctor resonates in the community on some level there, but that’s a whole other heated discussion ;p.
Thank you everyone for the continued advice, you’ve all given me a lot to think about. It’s really great to hear your thoughts, so by all means, keep them coming!
Not to de-rail the convo, but a Physician’s Assistant has more versatility and opportunity than many other health care careers - it’s a real bummer to see others think less of it.
They serve many of the roles the family practice doctor once did, and I knew several students who had the grades and the brains to go the medical school route - but they wanted more time with their family and chose PA instead. They’re pretty awesome, and they have to compete for spots in their schools just like pre-meds do for med school.
That is why I absolutely do not consider it a “runner up” position. And if you do really think of PAs that way, don’t go for it, because, yes, the entire PA education community wants individuals who WANT to be PAs.
An opinion on PA’s from a surgeon.
Annette - that article is awesome. Thank you
Hi guys and thanks once again for the responses! First off, that is an excellent article and I’m glad you posted seven, thanks!
Secondly, I do not consider being a Physician Assistant as a “runner up” career choice. I hesitated posting what I said because I had a feeling it would be misconstrued as looking down on the profession. I have known and worked with many fine PAs and have great respect for what they do and the role they fill, which is badly needed in the current system and they certainly don’t get enough credit or understanding for what they do.
My point was that I have weighed both options and becoming a doctor is in my heart, and it would be wrong for me to choose PA as a “runner up” option because med school wouldn’t work out. I most certainly do not think less of the PA profession, it’s just not what I want, and becoming something you don’t want to become is a disservice to you, the profession, and the community it serves.
I apologize that my point came across poorly in the last post. I hope I’ve better explained my stance on the issue, thank you pixie for showing me I needed to clarify!
- ecpwrnl Said:
Great explanation. I hope you didn't feel I was picking on you, but we have a *TON* of lurkers who read and read, but never post. Knowing this tends to color my responses to things like this.
Good luck moving forward, and keep posting questions!
- sevenwheels Said:
An opinion on PA's from a surgeon.
The surgeon who wrote that - Dr. Natalie J. Belle, MD - is one of the founding members of OldPreMeds and was a site admin both here on this website and on SDN for many years.
Hello! I am new here myself and I’m by far no expert, but I’d like to share what I feel/know. Sounds like you are in a tough spot. I have to agree with everyone that a spouses support is vital. In my case my husband’s support was a major factor in my finally deciding to go with my dream. I will say however, I had a similar situation back in the fall. I had finally decided to return to school and at first my hubby wasn’t too keen on the idea. He reluctantly told me to go for it after a few weeks of debate. I was so happy and was doing really well (made the dean’s list). Even though my husband was happy for me he was growing quite short tempered and annoyed. After a huge fight he confessed that he was jealous. I was shocked! Now this is the man who has been in IT for 15 years and always liked computer work. Come to find out he wanted out of computers and wanted to pursue his dream, which is herpatology. My husband has breed ball pythons for a few years as a hobby, but he made it very clear for years that he never ever wanted to go to college. I had no idea that he felt this way, he never mentioned it before. I thought it was great! He was scared too death to say anything to me and my success with school was really getting to him. Now he is enrolled in school too taking online classes to satisfy the gen eds at our local community college. He is so much happier now and told me I have to follow my dream of becoming a doctor. I know you mentioned that you tried to get your wife to go back to school, but do you still think it’s possible that she feels a little jealous of your decision? It’s a HUGE deal and takes a ton of guts, maybe she wants a piece of that for herself even if she won’t admit to it. Maybe she doesn’t even realize it yet. I wouldn’t give up your dream, just show her (without causing a fight) how serious you are and how much it means to you. If this is a relatively new goal on your part, maybe she thinks it will pass and you’ll give up. Just try and have a heart to heart and find out if there is more to it than what is being said. In the end, you have to be the one who decides to give up your dream, not some one else. I could be wrong, but chances are giving up your dream for her will likely cause more distance in your relationship than medical school ever would. Hope I have helped some! Good luck and keep us posted!
Hi nurse_or_md, welcome and thanks for posting! I have to admit I had to google herpetology ;p. Very interesting point and I’m glad to hear you worked through the lingering barrier with your spouse. As for my situation, I have been a big supporter of my wife going back to school if that’s what she wants to do. She half heatedly began studying for the GRE in an attempt to become a nurse practicioner some years ago, but she didn’t have the ambition for it. She was happy at the level she was at and has since admitted that she has no desire whatsoever to get back in the classroom. Luckily she now has found other avenues to persue that allow her to expand into new areas while still utilizing her current skill sets, just in very different ways from bed side nursing which she is tired of. I’m glad she found new opportunities that will be both stimulating and potentially quite lucritive, certainly two important components to consider when moving into a new career, which she desperately wants and I am 100% behind.
I believe she is completely honest about not wanting me to take on such a monumentally time consuming endeavor. As much as she wouldn’t want to lose time with me, I feel it has more to do with our daughters time with me. She is my step-daughter and has an extremely poor, nearly non-existent relationship with her biological father, by his choice. I know my wife doesn’t want to see my relationship with our daughter (which is very close) deteriorate. I obviously don’t want that either, and don’t believe it has to/will. I also think that taking this path will serve a positive example for her, not only from an educational and career standpoint, but that you can and should always strive to do what makes you happy, and that it’s never too late to do that.
Incidentally, I had a dream a few nights ago in which my wife was asking me if I’d like to become a neurologist. It was a little disappointing to wake up, but maybe it’s a sign. Of what I don’t know, but I’m trying to stay positive ;p.
I think the support from a spouse is needed on this journey. There will be a lot of sacrifice that you and your family will need to make, including tighter finances and less time to spend with family. My husband did a calculation for me that I will have to work until I am in my 70s to make up my lost wages during medical school and residency. A physician once told me that the divorce rate is high among physicians, and it is important to have a balanced personal life and career. He also told me that it is definitely doable but requires efforts.
Is it possible to start slow,for example, start by just taking one pre-req course this Fall and see how it goes and how your wife feel? Maybe she will change her mind at that time.
Anyway, good luck to you!