At this point in time, is the medical field a good idea?

Jan 15, 2016
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Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hi all,

High school junior here. For quite a few years, I've been interested in pursuing a career in medicine; I have a passion for science and have accumulated close to 300 hospital volunteer hours. Perhaps one of the largest appeals of medicine to me is that you feel as though you're actually making a difference in the lives of others, which can't be said for many other jobs. I still have plenty of time to make up my mind, but recently, I've been having second thoughts.

While I have passion for the field and can certainly visualize myself as a doctor in the future, what worries me is the actual path to getting there. Most of the specialties I'm interested in would have me getting my first non-residency job in the 30-32 age range. The idea that I'll have a minimum of $100K of debt when I start working is quite troubling. I recently had a conversation with my friend about his father, who's an emergency physician. My friend told me that his dad hadn't paid off all of his debt until he was nearly 45. Today, my GP told me that he hadn't paid off his debt until his SECOND SON had already graduated from medical school. In addition to that, he advised strongly against entering the medical field at this point in time. In his words, both the government and insurance companies have put a target on physician's backs and the future looks pretty dreadful, especially with the possibility of a singer-payer system.

Family life is another of my concerns regarding medicine. Do you damage your chances of having a family by entering this field? I can certainly imagine that medical school and residency would put quite a bit of stress on a relationship, and that children would be out of the question until you're financially stable (which presumably won't be for quite awhile). While money isn't my prime motivator for entering a field, at the same time, I don't want to ruin myself.

On the other hand, my mother works in the financial industry, as does much of her family. Being that I was raised around her, I've also developed an interest in finance, and it's recently a career that I've been thinking about. It certainly appears to be the better option financially, but, to be quite honest, I'm not sure I can see myself sitting behind a desk and computer for the next 40 years of my life. At the same time, one of my favorite parts of medicine is helping people. You don't get that feeling in finance - quite the opposite sometimes.

I guess that what I'm trying to say is: are these concerns legitimate? To people that have already entered medicine, what do you have to say regarding what I've pointed out?

Any responses would be appreciated - thanks.
 
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WedgeDawg

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If you can be happy doing something outside of medicine, do that. If you really think medicine is the only thing that will make you happy, or will satisfy you far beyond anything else, do medicine. Yes, people are getting paid relatively less than a few decades ago, yes, there is more administrative tape and loss of autonomy, yes you will be in a decent amount of debt, yes you will be working long hours and have less time to see your family, yes you will not be making money until your late 20s at the very very earliest.

However, if you decide medicine is the life for you, you won't be struggling if you're smart about your personal finances and how you finance your education. If having a family is important to you, you will be able to make time for it. If money is important to you, you can prioritize that. If free time is important to you, that can be prioritized as well. You can't have everything, but you can have adequate amounts of some things. Medicine is a career that requires some degree of sacrifice, but it doesn't require you to sacrifice anything.

You have a while before you need to make this decision. Do some more shadowing, especially younger doctors and doctors you don't know personally or through a close connection. Shadow different specialties. Look into other careers too and see if you find anything interesting. Whether it's "worth it" or not is not up to us - it's up to you and what you value most.
 
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Kurk

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Hi. I remember asking something like this too when I was a high-school junior just earlier this year.

As Wedgedawg said, there are going to be inevitable changes in healthcare in the years to come. I too value autonomy in medicine—if I didn't then something like a PA or CNP would be a better option. I'm not sure if the issue is that doctors aren't as good business men/women anymore to where private practice is frowned upon or what the deal is.

Here is how I think of it as objectively as possible. I like medicine the most for the following reasons in this order: Intellectual stimulation, the ability to directly and indirectly help humankind, the lifestyle, the monies, the status/respect.

I picture myself in the following scenarios:
Scenario A: ≈ 50 years ago
Doctors were highly respected, very well paid, but also overworked more than there are today. A doctor living in a rural town running their own practice could be working 7 days a week.

I would like this scenario:
Though I might be time-poor, I would glad to know that people respect me and what I do. I would also be glad knowing I can contribute a good chunk of my earnings to charity and meaningful causes.

Chance of happening: very slim

Scenario B: ≈ present day (physicians in their 40s - 60s) (status quo)
Doctors have retained most of the attributes from scenario A minus some. Salaries may have fell a little but it's nothing tragic as the slightly better work-schedule makes up for it.

I would very much like this scenario.
Everything seems a little more balanced out here. I still have enough money to invest and donate as a choose, but my work hours are a little more pleasant.

Chance of happening: unlikely to uncertain depending on some of the politics in America.

Scenario C: ≈ uncertain future
Doctors have lost their traditional attributes and much autonomy. They are seen as regular job-holders and only make average to above average pay compared to 9 to 5 employees. Work hours are still arduous though some regulations may have capped the amount of hours per shift (I doubt this when I look at Japan). A single-payer system has been implemented.

I would not like this scenario at all
I would not be have much capital to invest where I see fit. I would not have much time either. I would very much feel like a slave but would be driven knowing I am at least making some sort of impact.

Chance of happening: slightly above average chance but again uncertain depending on the politics in America.


So as you can see I can see myself as a physician in a couple different scenarios. If you pass the test, congrats! This might be a good field for you to pursue.

I know it might come off as a little strange but try it!

And if anyone has any other scenarios they can think of feel free to add it!
 
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OP
D
Jan 15, 2016
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1
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Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
yes, we will always make plenty of money
That wasn't the point of this post - please keep your negativity to yourself. People shouldn't be attacked for making a legitimate query.

Also, thanks everyone else for your answers. They've all been pretty insightful.
 

jqueb29

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That wasn't the point of this post - please keep your negativity to yourself. People shouldn't be attacked for making a legitimate query.

Also, thanks everyone else for your answers. They've all been pretty insightful.
I wasn't being negative at all tho? I quickly read your post and it seems like you are worried about the financial aspect of medicine, specifically in regards to how it will affect your ability to have a family. I'm a married third year medical student, and I was telling you that things are always going to be just fine in regards to finances and family life for doctors, which is the exact opposite of "negativity"...

Some specialties have great free time (i.e. prospects for family life) but lower pay ("lower" should still always be about $200,000 a year), while others will have terrible hours but great pay. But there are also plenty of specialties that hit the sweet spot of plenty of pay and plenty of free time. The sky is always falling on SDN, but the future truly is bright.
 
OP
D
Jan 15, 2016
4
1
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I wasn't being negative at all tho? I quickly read your post and it seems like you are worried about the financial aspect of medicine, specifically in regards to how it will affect your ability to have a family. I'm a married third year medical student, and I was telling you that things are always going to be just fine in regards to finances and family life for doctors, which is the exact opposite of "negativity"...

Some specialties have great free time (i.e. prospects for family life) but lower pay ("lower" should still always be about $200,000 a year), while others will have terrible hours but great pay. But there are also plenty of specialties that hit the sweet spot of plenty of pay and plenty of free time. The sky is always falling on SDN, but the future truly is bright.
Sorry, I guess it's easy to mistake what someone's saying when you're not talking to them in person. At first glance, I thought you were assuming that this was just another one of the "can i be rich doctor pls?" posts. But yeah, my bad.

In regards to specialties that hit the sweet spot, do you think that, regardless of any future legislation, they'll always exist?
 
D

da8s0859q

I am an attending emergency physician, recently out of residency.

My/our specialty is, to some, in the "sweet spot" depending on priorities -- pay/hour, residency length, hours worked, so forth, but at the expense of more trying hours, erratic shifts, nature of work, so forth. It is a quasi-lifestyle specialty but not a traditional lifestyle specialty.

Most have a substantial amount of debt from med school loans. Think $150k-$300k for those in my "generation".

Many are able to pay it off within the first several years. As others said, priorities. I don't have kids and have much more aggressive plans than would someone with four children.

Your concerns are valid. You should -- unlike what the naively idealistic subgroup of SDNers will say -- be worried about the financial side as you are. But that doesn't mean that things are going to go to hell. As long as there is an understanding among the powers that be that sabotaging financial security after the immense investment required for medical training will simply push people out and away, I don't think we're going to end up in a terrible position.

I don't have what my predecessors had, but that's just how it is. It's going to continue to change. Maybe not always for the better.

Take your time. Don't let the ego/prestige thing (which also matters - you should be proud of or at least pleased to be a part of what you do, whatever it is) push you to chasing an MD. Sure, we help people. Sure, I've saved lives directly. But for most, if I hadn't, someone else likely would have in the ED.

But it has to be worth what you give to be in the position, and medicine requires a hell of a lot more than liking science and wanting to "help people" to have it be worth it.
 
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