I'm not sure medicine is for me, does that mean it's time to quit?

Jun 30, 2013
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2
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Hey everyone, I know these threads aren't the most interesting to many of you because you are set and well on your way to becoming doctors, but as such I could really use your advice.

I'm a sophomore at a major state university double majoring in liberal arts disciplines. Since I was a sophomore in high school, I've always had this dream of being a doctor. But in college I've consistently put off my my pre med pre requisites. As it stands, I've only taken my first level bio class, which I loved and got an A in.

Time and time again I've put off my science classes because I don't need them for my major, and justify to myself that my majors are enough and I'm interested in them and I don't want to be a doctor. But after every semester of straight liberal arts classes, I've always missed the type of thinking my bio class required and figured I needed to recommit myself to becoming a doctor.

Despite this, I'm not totally there. I HATE chemistry, and struggle in any kind of math based science. Am I sure I can be successful in them? Yes, but it will take a lot of work. I don't mind that, in fact it somewhat appeals to me, I'm just afraid of doing so much work for something I'm not 100% about.

I always told myself that I had to shadow a doctor to make up my mind. Last week I got the opportunity, shadowing a general surgeon in clinic and even coming into the OR for two really interesting cases. After spending these days in the hospital, I know absolutely I can do medicine. I understood the basics of what was going on, and was completely unfazed by the blood and guts and the mayhem when there was a complication from surgery. That stuff really appeals to me.

The thing is, I went into the week wanting so badly to love the experience but didn't. I had every opportunity to; everyone was nice and excited to see me, answered my questions, I saw really cool cases. But I also felt somewhat like I maybe didn't belong there, a feeling I tried ignoring but definitively felt.

So now I'm just more confused. I've wanted to be a doctor for a long time, despite the fact that it is against everything I have always been told to do (everyone told me to be a lawyer, soldier, politician). I love the dedication required to be a doc. It was incredible seeing this woman being healed in front of my eyes. I think the body is really cool. But on the other hand, I was exhausted and irritable after spending a 16 hour shift shadowing this guy. I don't know if I can be like that for years. Science isn't my forte, I'm a standout in writing and that sort of thinking. I also don't know if I want to sacrifice most of my 20s to do this. I've always sort of dreamed for an exciting international career for the state dept. or something like that at that age.

I'm rambling, and I apologize for that. I just am curious if anyone on here can relate to the kind of nonsense i espoused above, and help me gain some clarity on this issue. I'll end with this; medicine appeals to me because it is a beautiful career based on the fundamental need for health care. I love the idea of being an important part of my community. The science is a bit scary to me, as is the fact that I still haven't been able to definitively say this is what I am going to do. I am full heartedly aware that if I cannot commit myself to this I won't be successful at it.

So please, any advice is great. Thanks
 

Flashfan

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May 22, 2010
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Volunteer at a clinic, donate your time and money to healthcare organizations, advocate for healthcare, get into politics, etc. You need not be a physician to make a difference. At my school everyone starts out pre-med and only a few end up applying. Most didn't give up because they couldn't hack it, but because they realized that their talents and preferences lie somewhere else. I go through this myself, since I am good at a lot of different things and really love the classes in my major. If you don't think you will love doing something, why push it?
 

Mad Jack

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Jul 27, 2013
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It is possible you were in the wrong environment. Surgical practice is different than what a MICU intensivist or an ER doc shift would be like. But I think your biggest problem might be that your heart isn't in the science. Science and a love of it is at the core of medicine, as you'll be taking years of the most difficult science courses out there at an extremely condensed pace.

All of the intro science courses were at first quite boring to me as well. But after you take them all, you start to understand so much. The potential energy of hydrogen ions that allows them to cross the mitochondrial inner membrane providing the energy needed to form ATP is one of my favorite examples. You can't fully understand the process without physics, biology, chemistry, and organic chemistry all working together. I would encourage you to take another set of prereq courses and see how you feel about them. For me, it all didn't start to come together till I completed all of them, so I would really encourage giving the harder sciences another shot.

I would also try shadowing in a non-surgical environment.

If you give it all a shot and decide being a doctor just isn't for you, there are other wonderful jobs out there that allow you to make a good living while helping others. Being a foreign service officer, getting a master's in public health and crafting public health policy, becoming a lawyer and working on health legislation (or anything else really), etc etc. If you like the medical field but don't want it to BE your life, you could consider the physician assistant route, which gives you the opportunity to work in any field except anesthesia, and also opens up international options in the foreign service, military, CDC (if you have additional epidemiological training), and even CIA. You could use the years you save to take up your passions outside of the medical field while still doing some interesting work within it.

Just some ideas. Ultimately only you can decide if being a physician is the right choice.
 

MedWonk

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May 13, 2010
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Hey everyone, I know these threads aren't the most interesting to many of you because you are set and well on your way to becoming doctors, but as such I could really use your advice.

I'm a sophomore at a major state university double majoring in liberal arts disciplines. Since I was a sophomore in high school, I've always had this dream of being a doctor. But in college I've consistently put off my my pre med pre requisites. As it stands, I've only taken my first level bio class, which I loved and got an A in.

Time and time again I've put off my science classes because I don't need them for my major, and justify to myself that my majors are enough and I'm interested in them and I don't want to be a doctor. But after every semester of straight liberal arts classes, I've always missed the type of thinking my bio class required and figured I needed to recommit myself to becoming a doctor.

Despite this, I'm not totally there. I HATE chemistry, and struggle in any kind of math based science. Am I sure I can be successful in them? Yes, but it will take a lot of work. I don't mind that, in fact it somewhat appeals to me, I'm just afraid of doing so much work for something I'm not 100% about.

I always told myself that I had to shadow a doctor to make up my mind. Last week I got the opportunity, shadowing a general surgeon in clinic and even coming into the OR for two really interesting cases. After spending these days in the hospital, I know absolutely I can do medicine. I understood the basics of what was going on, and was completely unfazed by the blood and guts and the mayhem when there was a complication from surgery. That stuff really appeals to me.

The thing is, I went into the week wanting so badly to love the experience but didn't. I had every opportunity to; everyone was nice and excited to see me, answered my questions, I saw really cool cases. But I also felt somewhat like I maybe didn't belong there, a feeling I tried ignoring but definitively felt.

So now I'm just more confused. I've wanted to be a doctor for a long time, despite the fact that it is against everything I have always been told to do (everyone told me to be a lawyer, soldier, politician). I love the dedication required to be a doc. It was incredible seeing this woman being healed in front of my eyes. I think the body is really cool. But on the other hand, I was exhausted and irritable after spending a 16 hour shift shadowing this guy. I don't know if I can be like that for years. Science isn't my forte, I'm a standout in writing and that sort of thinking. I also don't know if I want to sacrifice most of my 20s to do this. I've always sort of dreamed for an exciting international career for the state dept. or something like that at that age.

I'm rambling, and I apologize for that. I just am curious if anyone on here can relate to the kind of nonsense i espoused above, and help me gain some clarity on this issue. I'll end with this; medicine appeals to me because it is a beautiful career based on the fundamental need for health care. I love the idea of being an important part of my community. The science is a bit scary to me, as is the fact that I still haven't been able to definitively say this is what I am going to do. I am full heartedly aware that if I cannot commit myself to this I won't be successful at it.

So please, any advice is great. Thanks
If you hate the sciences now, you're probably going to be miserable the first two years of med school, and may find yourself being a little unhappy afterward as all your clinical knowledge is going to be based on sciences you learn. I'm not a big fan of physics, but I do generally like science, and even when I wasn't having a good time in Physics I still found most concept to be interesting. If science totally bores you or you just plain don't like it, then it may not be the right career path. You could still be involved in healthcare in a less science-intense pathway, but bear in mind that in a lot healthcare jobs that actually pay decent money require at least some science coursework and probably have sort of CME component.
 

MedPhys2MD

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I think you should spend more time shadowing to see what you really have an interest in... And by shadowing, I don't just mean doctors - I'm also referring to other potential jobs that you would pursue if you don't go into medicine. Spend time with people in all professions that you might be interested in and whichever you think best fits your personality - try to get a summer internship to learn more about it
 

Ismet

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If you hate the sciences now, you're probably going to be miserable the first two years of med school, and may find yourself being a little unhappy afterward as all your clinical knowledge is going to be based on sciences you learn. I'm not a big fan of physics, but I do generally like science, and even when I wasn't having a good time in Physics I still found most concept to be interesting. If science totally bores you or you just plain don't like it, then it may not be the right career path. You could still be involved in healthcare in a less science-intense pathway, but bear in mind that in a lot healthcare jobs that actually pay decent money require at least some science coursework and probably have sort of CME component.
OP said he doesn't like chemistry and math-based sciences, but he loved bio. Overall, med school is a lot more like bio than it is chem/physics. There's some physics concepts in cardio and pulm, some basic equations and math in subjects like renal, obviously some basic chem principles like acid/base, but I don't think he would hate the science of medicine. He would have to suffer through the pre-reqs and the MCAT, but that would pretty much be the extent of challenging math-based science in medicine.

OP, I'd echo what others have said. You need a bit more exposure to medicine and possibly other career fields in healthcare before making a decision on which path to take. Try shadowing in another specialty from surgery. Often surgery is appealing to people with certain personalities, and you may very well not be a future surgeon. But you might find that you love microbiology or endocrinology or heme or a huge number of other specialties that cater to a variety of personalities and interests.
 
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justAstudent

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Apr 12, 2011
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I agree with the above posts. I would try to shadow different physicians of different specialities to get a better feel of what it's like. Other than that, you have to just think real hard and ask yourself of you really want to become a doctor. If you can see yourself doing anything else, I would pursue that instead honestly. The road to becoming a physician is a long and difficult one that takes a lot out of people. If you don't absolutely love it, you'll be completely miserable for a very long time.
 
OP
S
Jun 30, 2013
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2
Status
I have indeed been encouraged to go into politics. I was heavily involved in my local democratic party when I was in high school. But honestly, politics is so screwed up I have no interest in it.

I think your all right about my needing to get more experience. Problem is, I'm running out of time somewhat. I have another week of Christmas break, during which time I'm going to log some more hours in at my local hospital. I'll try to experience a different specialty while I'm there.

I think I'm going to go ahead and give a full semester of real pre med a try. I've only ever taken 1 bio class. So I'm going to take physics 1 and chem 1 this semester. Both are notorious for being awful and difficult at my school, so if I can be successful in them and still consider medicine after, I think that's the path I'll take.

So thank you all for your replies. I'm still open for advice or any personal stories if you have the time or interest. Thanks again.