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Can someone describe the steps they took to get into psychiatric medicine??

Discussion in 'Psychiatry' started by alethiologist, Aug 14, 2011.

  1. alethiologist

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    I know I need to get into medical school first, but I wanted to ask people who were in the midst of this process and really knew what they were talking about rather than the crusty old HPAC advisor at my university. I would like to eventually become a pediatric/adolescent psychiatrist, but it's been really difficult to find people knowledgeable about the matter.

    I know there will be differences between the various med schools everyone is attending but I'm curious about:
    -the hardships you've encountered
    -things you wish you'd known before you went into your residency and/or fellowship
    -what your hours are like
    -whether any of you have ever personally experienced mental illness through your own means or a family member or friend
    -what you've learned in and outside of the classroom

    Thank you so much for your time,
     
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  3. digitlnoize

    digitlnoize Rock God
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    I'm just a 4th year med student, but I have a bit more time free at the moment than some of the other people probably do, so I'll hit some of these really quick.

    I had terrible advisors at my undergrad as well. My opinion is that if these people were in the position to give anyone advice, they wouldn't be working at that particular job, but that's just me. I often knew way more than they did just from reading the University's published guides and SDN.

    General info: After high school, you need: a 4 year degree in something. Anything will work, but Biology or Chemistry are most common because of the "core" med school pre-reqs (1 year of: Biology, General Chemistry, Physics, and Organic Chemistry). Also need to take the MCAT (the pre-med test) and get a rocking score so you can get in.

    Med school is generally 4 years. It will consume your life...at least until 4th year. :D

    After med school, you do residency, often at a different institution from your medical school. For General Adult psych, this is 4 years. Child & Adolescent psychiatry is a 2 year fellowship, but you can "Fast Track" and start this fellowship at the end of your 3rd year of residency, making the whole process 5 years after medical school.

    So, 4 + 4 + 5 = 13 years of post high school training.

    This is a bit vague and everyone will have their own stories. For me, medicine is my second career, so most of my problems have been balancing my family (wife, daughter) with my studies, which I think I've done fairly successfully. I'm a rather mediocre test taker, although I get ok grades, I don't think my test scores always reflect my level of knowledge. What else? Math. When studying for the MCAT, I hadn't taken a math class of 10 years, so I was very rusty. It certainly hurt my score a bit. You may not have these problems if you are young and don't take a school break like I did.

    Haven't done it yet, but I'd like to hear answers to this one too, since I'll be starting next year.

    Psych generally has pretty good hours compared to the rest of medicine, at least once you're done with residency/fellowship. Many psychiatrists set their own hours and can work 9-5 type gigs usually, if they so choose. This can vary a LOT though, and you'll find psychiatrists who take lots of call and work nights, weekends, and tons of hours a week too. But, it's really up to you.

    Yes. Not myself (although I'm sure some people would beg to differ, ha ha ha), but I've known many friends and some distant family members who have had relatively minor bouts with mental illness, but nothing really serious. I had a number of friends in high school who were treated inpatient for depression successfully. I knew one kid less well who unfortunately succeeded in killing himself in high school. I spent many years after high school in the music business, so I met many colorful characters there. Many, many people with substance abuse issues, depression, personality disorders are very common too. Lead Singer Narcissism is not a myth.

    My experience in this area is one factor that led to me choosing psychiatry, actually. When I did my psych rotation in medical school (3rd year), I found that I had actually been doing "psychiatry" my whole life, without really knowing it. I was always the person people turned to for advice or a "shoulder to cry on" or whatever and I feel very, very comfortable around this particular population of patients, and I speak their language. I had a classmate post on Facebook the other day that they were working in the ER and a patient said that he/she had swallowed an "eight ball." She had no idea what the patient meant. I did instantly (it's a reference to an amount (typically 1/8 of an ounce) of cocaine). Anyways, aside from this familiarity, I also find the subject incredibly interesting, and I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile, more so in psychiatry than in other fields. So, here we are.

    Disclaimer: I never actually did drugs myself, but I was present for a LOT of drug use in my musician days. I never saw the appeal personally, and I used to have a heart tachyarrhythmia and I was worried the drugs would mess with it, so I stayed clean...but you pick up a lot when you're around it.

    Waaaay to broad of a question. Umm...

    In the classroom: Medicine. Like, all of it. I've learned basic things like anatomy, to crazy things like complications encountered when delivering a baby. I've had my hands elbow deep in blood inside someone's abdomen picking out pieces of ruptured spleen. I've learned more zebras than I care to mention. I've learned more drugs than are used, and biochemical reactions that I can't remember anything about. Some have said it's like trying to drink from a firehouse...I disagree. That's what they said 20 years ago. Now, with the expanse of medical knowledge, I think it's like trying to drink all the oceans of the world.

    Out of the classroom: Music, people, love, balance, and happiness.

    Or something like that. Good luck!
     
  4. alethiologist

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    The fast track thing is GREAT news!

    It depends on what your definition of young is. I'm actually 31 and I'm almost done with a (my first) B.S. in neuroscience. My educational career is a long and somewhat convoluted story. I didn't go to college straight out of high school and when I did start college, I initially pursued a studio art major. I'm in a long term relationship now, no kids but marriage is definitely on the horizon. I may have to hit you up for tips on how to balance an adult life with school.

    I also wanted to ask what sort of tasks professors assign you (besides tests). I've heard rumors that there are A LOT of group projects.



    I was really wondering about residency/fellowship hours. I know they vary greatly, trust me.


    I have also always been the person people turn to for advice or a shoulder to cry on. I've worked with children (infants to high school age) a fair amount and I tend to be the one they trust and tell their "secrets" to.

    Personally, there's a lot of addiction and bipolar in my family so I'm very familiar and comfortable with these things. At this point, I can tell if someone is drunk or high over the phone. :laugh: I've had my own experiences with mental illness as well, although I've been in remission for almost 5 years.
     
  5. alethiologist

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    I forgot to say THANK YOU!!!!
     
  6. st2205

    st2205 Attending
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    Only an OMSIII but I'd say that thus far, as someone with a wife and two kids, the lifestyle is what you make it. You can do it so long as you're not under the impression that you want to go to the most competitive school, be in the top of your class -- or even the top half -- and that you're not going to be the best applicant since Hawkeye Pierce. In the end you'll be making a lot of sacrifices, but it will be up to you what venue of life those sacrifices will come from.
     
  7. whopper

    whopper Former jolly good fellow
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    Aside that medical education in general IMHO is too grounded in multiple choice exams, that you have to consume inhuman amounts of data that don't have much direct contribution to the actual clinical practice of medicine, several medical doctors don't give a damn about other people and are in it for the money or some type of social obligation (e.g. their parents made them do it)...

    Several people in the medical education process frown upon psychiatry because of their specialty-centric mindset. E.g. anatomy professors would love to hear you say that you'll go into surgery. Very few people are in an area where they are focused on behavioral sciences.
     
  8. digitlnoize

    digitlnoize Rock God
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    Choose a school with a curriculum that will work for you. For example, I went to LECOM-Bradenton, a DO school with a PBL curriculum during the first 2 years, where you only have to be in the school building for ~2h/day (most of the time), the rest is spent studying (HARD) on your own (or with friends). The point is, that you can work around your family schedule a bit. I often would go to school from 8-10, study hard from 10-1, break for lunch, study hard from 2-5. Wife and daughter home from school now, so family time, have some dinner, watch some TV until around 8-9. Then some light studying or review in bed, half-watching TV until 10-12. Repeat, every day.

    Other schools are heavily lecture based and require you to swipe in and out of the lecture hall with a badge for attendance of lectures from 9-5 every day. Then you have to study at night. This type of environment doesn't lend itself well to a family life. So, research your schools well and pick one that fits you. Don't worry as much about which is considered "the best." It doesn't really matter, in 99% of cases....

    In medical school? Not so much. Again, I'm sure this is VERY school dependent. I didn't have any. Just tests. Eternal multiple choice tests. I did have some projects in undergrad, and I did have to work in teams in medical school, but no "projects" or assignments, per se.


    I would limit your openness about your own struggles with mental illness. For whatever reason, there is still a stigma, and although IMO psychiatrists should be the most understanding of this...they're not. If you were choosing between two equally well-qualified applicants, one with a history of bipolar and the other without, who would you pick? So, go edit your post, take out that mention, I'll do the same after you, and everyone else here will pretend we never saw that. :whistle::ninja:
     
  9. whopper

    whopper Former jolly good fellow
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    Psychiatrists seem to only advocate for dropping the stigma of mental illness when it applies to everyone else in dealing with the mentally ill, but not themselves.
     
  10. Flushot

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    What about the patients themselves? The ones I've talked to seem more interested in getting people the help they need. Still, they don't seem to push helping themselves.

    I'm a 3rd year currently in Psych and honestly, I'm loving every minute of it. I roamed around the EM forums and now, after experiencing it, everything is different. I want to pursue this and I've been a little nervous entering the forums with questions about certain programs such as the two UNLV ones, but that'll change now.
     
  11. milesed

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    Steps I took-

    I always loved kids and wanted to be pediatrician, got to 3rd year and HATED seeing kids suffer and die.

    Did psyc. rotation and loved it that a doc actually got to talk to their patients and treat them like humans. My rotation attending told me about child-adol. and I was ready. I did a Developmental peds and a Child-adol rotation in the early 4th year to be sure and loved it all.

    Applied, interiewed, matched at a program I could do general then child (all in 5 years). Loved it all and never regretted any choices I made..
     
  12. whopper

    whopper Former jolly good fellow
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    Most psychiatric patients do not advocate for themselves because they are too limited in their cognitive functioning, or they don't want to attract attention to themselves because of the social stigma.

    E.g. I had a patient fired a few months ago by her boss because that patient has an anxiety disorder. The disorder was effectively treated with medication, but the employer was upset just that the patient needed a few days off while the medication was taking effect. Turned out the employer too had an anxiety disorder and was actually on the same exact treatment. Even worse, the employer is a medical professional and if anything that should've made her more understanding of this patient's problem, and the patient was completely stabilized for weeks when she was fired and doing well at the job.

    The patient had every right to sue the employer and IMHO would've won. The last thing she wanted was to make her disorder public, and that's what a lawsuit does.
     
  13. Manicsleep

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    I put my right foot in, I took my right foot out...

    I liked psychology and did psychology, I liked medicine so I went to medical school. Although psychiatry wasn't an obvious choice as I like a lot of other fields I love the field now and continue to practice even though I could completely do sleep medicine. Best decision I made.
     

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