Single Parent


I am a 34 yr old single parent with a 2 yr old and an 8 yr old. I live in Southern Louisiana. I want to be a doctor more than anything. I also have a horrible undergrad GPA that is over 15 years old. I will be starting a BSN program soon so that I can work in the medical field while raising my daughters. Would it benefit me more to continue to my Nurse Practitioner while working toward medical school or get my masters in something like Biology or Chemistry. My parents live near me and keep my girls for me. The school in the town that I live in has a University that offers a Nurse Practitioner program and a Masters in Chemistry but that is all in the way of science. My plan is to get my BSN, then Nurse Practitioner and work while I retake my pre-req classes. Not sure what will give me the best shot. Any advice would be appreciated.


Welcome to OPM, mammadoc!

First, What is your original undergrad in? You say retake your pre-reqs - have you already taken all of them? Approximately how many science/math credits have you taken and what is your GPA like?

I’m not sure that either a NP or a masters in chemistry or biology is going to benefit you that much. If medical school is your ultimate goal, than I don’t think you should spend the time and money pursuing a NP that you will only use for a couple of years. The masters in chemistry or biology might be more beneficial, but masters course grades generally aren’t given the same weight as undergrad courses, because it is expected that you will do well in a masters program (i.e. - a C or even a B- is considered failing in most masters programs).

Depending on your original undergrad situation, your best option may be to pursue second BS degree in a science. You may not need to do a whole degree - you might be okay with redoing the pre-reqs and taking several upper level science courses. I’m assuming that if your local institution offers masters in biology and chemistry, that they also offer a wide variety of undergrad science coursework.

I generally rant against people doing the nursing route when their ultimate goal is medical school for a variety of reasons, but I can understand why nursing would be attractive. With two young children, a nursing degree would certainly offer you a fairly flexible and well-paying job while you are taking courses to improve your GPA for med school. Why a BSN instead of an ADN, though? Is this an accelerated BSN for people who already have degrees or a four year program? If your goal is simply to have a medical job while you pursue med school admission, I think the ADN would serve you as well as a BSN.

Can you give us a little more background on your original undergrad?

I concur. If your eventual goal is medical school, I would not put the time and effort into an NP program. It absolutely will NOT help you get into med school (could even hurt you) and it won’t necessarily bring you a significantly better paycheck than a nurse, depending on your location and specialty.

When I say an NP background won’t help you, here’s what I mean: the NP preparation is long on theory / classroom and short on actual bedside/office practice, so the education won’t give you any step up. Also, NP programs want to train people to be NPs, not used as stepping stones for med school - you will not get support for your career goals. And thirdly, your time frame wouldn’t have you practicing as an NP for long, and an NP who wants to go to med school, in my view, needs to be able to say, “I thought that was what I wanted but I realized I needed more.” Going into an NP program knowing that it isn’t what you actually want is not a good selling point.

Can you tell that I think you shouldn’t do it?


former nurse who contemplated NP briefly…

Hi, mammadoc. As I was reading your post, it struck me how much courage and determination you have to go back to school as a single mom with two young children, particularly your with interest in medical school. I admire your perseverance.

The time committment and financial considerations of medical school, and even premed are tremendous.

I thought about the same route that you are considering, mostly because it offered the opportunity to work as a licensed health professional while going to school.

I know this–my four year bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science is a fairly useless stand-alone major. It’s not enough education to get a “good” job in research or in a lab somewhere, although it could be a good background for medical sales (which does not particularly appeal to me). But then again, when I started out, I knew that my long-term goal was continuing with my education, whether with an accelerated BSN to NP, Medical School, or graduate school.

There are a few considerations that you must make as you decide your path…

  1. the financial and time needs of your family–do you have a support system for childcare or finances while you go to school? For example I know how terribly expensive good childcare can be–for each child in preschool, it is about the same cost as year of undergraduate school at a public university. Before and after school care is not much better, moreover, finding the right people to trust with your children is often a challenge. Juggling childcare and study time with little children in the home is not an easy road. It’s been tough for me with a husband, an 8-year old and an 11-year old, and at this age my children need less supervision than younger kids. My husband makes a fairly good living, so I’ve been able to focus on my schoolwork and minimize my work outside the home.

  2. short-term and long-term goals–would you be satisfied working as an RN leading to NP? There is an expectation at least in our local nursing school, that getting an NP is earned with work experience as an RN plus certification. It can take about as long as medical school will take to get your license as an NP. Also, Masters Degree Nursing Programs are giving way to new Doctor of Nursing Programs. Some of my RN coworkers at the hospital toyed with the idea of doing NP work and decided that the financial benefits are greater weighed against the time committment to remain an RN. Also the nursing aspect of medicine, is vastly different in mindset than the doctoring aspect–it’s a different set of responsibilities and a different level of patient interaction and depth of education. In the short term, you will be able to work while going to school, which is not really the case once you start medical school–for the first decade you spend in school and work (prior to becoming an RN or getting a bachelor’s degree in the sciences, you can work as a CNA after a few weeks of training and licensing for small money but good experience, then after your RN with your bachelor’s you can continue to work in the capacity of an RN while taking classes, courses which are often timed to support working nurses and their families), nursing will be more profitable if you weigh in the cost of medical school loans.

    However, in the long term, after that first decade, financial opportunities and intellectual opportunities and growth will be much greater after going through medical school.

  3. what-if’s?–I think it is important to have a backup plan if medical school doesn’t happen. Premed programs are tough, and there are no guarantees that you will make the grades and score on the MCAT that you will need to get you to medical school… if it doesn’t happen, what will you do? You have a family on the line. I kept this in mind myself when going through my program. I did my undergrad, ensuring that the courses that I took would work for medical school and would also meet prerequisites for entry into an accelerated BSN/RN program at my local nursing school. Premed courses are more difficult–for example the level of chemistry and organic chemistry required for a BSN is a step below the ones you need for medical school. My local nursing school accepted either course, so it worked for me as my backup plan. As a side note, I would caution against doing an ADN. In my area of the country, we have a three year waiting list to get into our community college ADN program. The ADN program itself has prerequisities, and after those prerequisites are met there is an additional 2 years of education required to get it. By the time I would get off the waiting list, get all the prerequisites done, I could have earned a BSN. If you get an ADN and want to go further as a nurse with your education and certification, you will still need to go back and do a BSN–it may be an accelerated program, but in the long run, you will spend a great deal of time trying to get to your goal, time spent which could have already had you in medical school or finishing up your NP.

    In short, there’s a lot of planning that must take place before you make a decision about what you want to do–you must search both your heart and mind and weigh your responsibilities so that you make the best decision for yourself and your family.

    I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

Hi mammadoc. On the face of it, we have similar stories! I am a single parent and was preparing last fall for an accelerated BSN, thinking that nursing would be compatible with raising my daughter. I could then do NP or DNP. However, when I got back into the classroom, I realized that nursing is not the dream that’s in my heart, the dream of the young me, that has been tucked away.

Some thoughts to offer…

-I agree with the other people’s advice. Nursing vs. med school IMHO is like apples vs. oranges. They are very different. Which one is the best match for your personality, etc.?

-There are so many things to consider—time with your children, paying the bills, etc. You don’t have to make a decision right now. You may want to plan a good semester with classes that would help you in either path and then see how you feel in a few more months.

-You have your family to help you raise your children. That’s golden. I went through some awful times, but I believe that being a single parent can be a real blessing. Marriage can be difficult, time-consuming, etc., especially if you’re not with the right person. Can a person make it through a post-bacc or med school as a single parent? Of course. It’s not about being married or not, but it’s about the support that you have…including financial. (I have been playing the lottery religiously)…I guess I mean that being a single parent is not a bad thing.

-You are worth the loans you may need to take out for your education (within reason). Live simply and try not to worry about the money.

-Talk to nursing program admissions people/advisors, pre-health/pre-med counselors, friends who are nurses/doctors. Gather as much information as you can and give it time to marinate. It’s a big decision, and I think it’s okay to give it time and room to work itself out.

I haven’t fully made the commitment to shoot for med school, but I believe the door is open again. The current plan is to continue with Chem II and Trig now, Calc in the summer, then a pre-med post-bacc next year, MCAT next summer and apply for entry Fall 2010. (Unless I join the circus. Saying I’m pre-med feels about that crazy. I’m glad this forum is here…)

Just my two cents. Hope any of it helps. Even just to know that I’m here, going through some of the same though processes as you. Sorry for the looong post. Good luck!