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Is this really for me?

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by camjakb, Sep 7, 2001.

  1. camjakb

    camjakb Member

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    I feel completely stupid for writing this, but here it goes. The last six years of my life have been spent trying to get into medical school. I finally made it, am about a month in, but don't know if it's for me or not. Yes, the workload (as everybody knows) is pretty significant but, so far, I'm in the top 1/3 of the class in terms of exam/quiz grades. The problem is that I'm a non-traditional/older student with minimal science exposure and have to do, or it seems like, twice the work of everybody else just to stay where I am. What I'm finding is that as I'm staying up into the night studying, looking at slides, or whatever, I keep asking myself "why the hell am I doing this?"

    Things came to a head last weekend when I burned out / flipped out and left school. I was gone for a couple of days and am now COMPLETELY behind. The dean was very cool about the whole situation and offered to spread the first year courses out over two years. I humbly accepted, but am now wondering if this whole med school sacrifice thing is right for me. Granted, nobody can make that decision but me. However, any input would be most appreciated.

    Signed,

    Miserable
     
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  3. old_one

    old_one Member

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    camjakb,

    How about some background? What did you do for those six years? Did you have a career in another field? Or were you a perpetual student? :D

    Someone who's actually been through med school could probably answer this question better (I'm in the process of applying right now), but I've had a career in Engineering and in IT. I'm in my early 30's and I finally went back to school to take my pre-med classes, I had to do extra work....but it paid off! At first it was a LOT of extra work, but as I developed a strong base in the sciences, I didn't have to work as hard.

    Also, I've *heard* (I don't actually know), that the first two years of med school require more "class time" and hitting the books....so maybe you'll enjoy it more when you're in your third and fourth year...

    What do you want to do when you get your degree? If the hard core sciences aren't appealing to you, you don't have to go into a specialty which requires research.

    Some other people that actually have an MD could probably give better input as to all of the options out there after you graduate...
     
  4. camjakb

    camjakb Member

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    I was a personal trainer for 4 years. As to the extent of my science experience, just took the courses I needed to get into school (orgo, gen chem, gen phys, 1 year bio, english). Not much but my MCAT scores were very solid.
     
  5. old_one

    old_one Member

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    If you don't mind me asking, which Allopathic school are you attending?

    Well, until someone with medical school experience replies, I'll add another two cents....

    I see two main options for you right now: You can stick with it and work really hard and do your best...or you can quit.

    The reason I would NOT advise quitting, is because you're not in a good position to make such a decision right now: you've just started med school and you're probably feeling emotionally drained adjusting to a new environment...hence, your mini "burn out".

    I think when you're in such a new and vulnerable situation, it's always best to give it a chance. One month isn't enough time to make such a decision, imho. And the reality is, you can ALWAYS quit at the drop of a hat later on down the road....BUT, you can't go back at the drop of a hat (you'd probably not get back into an allopathic school...especially if it took you 6 years to get in).

    I think that sounds like a good option. That means that you'll only have half the workload than everyone else...so it should help a lot. BTW, do you have to pay for a full extra year tuition? (Just curious).

    But, like I said, I'm not in med school (yet), so someone with more experience could probably you give you better advice...
     
  6. cjjtheriotMD

    cjjtheriotMD New Member

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    I completely understand. Medical school is such a difficult transition, especially for a non-traditional student. I am non-traditional in that I am the mother of a 3 year old. :) Currently, I'm a second year at EVMS. First and second year are rough in terms of the workload and sometimes a lot of it seems irrelevant. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Does your school offer any early clinical experiences? Those tend to help put things in perspective. Did you enjoy any volunteer work that you might have done before med school. If you did, then medical school maybe for you. If you are willing to put up with the first two years, you may find that it's not so bad.
     
  7. Billie

    Billie An Oldie but a Goodie...

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    Hi camjakb,

    You're in the top third? Wow! I am a fourth year, in the bottom third, and am quite happy with that! But I am sorry you are so unhappy. I was there too! The first semester is the WORST. Second semester gets better, then second year is better than the first. And rotation life is great! It is hard too, with weird and strange hours, but soooo much more fun.

    My experience was a little different. My grades took a nose dive when both my parents died my first year, within 4 months of each other. Needless to say school was the LAST thing on my mind. So I feel pretty good to have got this far, even if I am in the lower third. But my point is that I hear you about questioning if it is worth it, or if you really want it. IT WILL GET BETTER. :)

    Billie
     
  8. ghostcow

    ghostcow Member

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    Trust me it does get better, well mostly. The first two years you don't really get to think very much, just memorize facts if it is a traditional program. This will change as you do the clinical rotations. More thinking, more mistakes, more rewards, more hours, etc., but you won't find yourself listening to hours of lectures just to prepare for test (well the USMLE will be painful, but those pass). Also you don't have to be in the top third of your class if is making you insane.
    It took 6 years to get in, give it until at least the end of 3rd year and hell then just do the easier 4th year. You can always get your MD and then do law/buisness/pharm or whatever makes you happy.
    PEACE
    P.S. I hope you are still working out, best cure for stress other than, well...
     
  9. camjakb

    camjakb Member

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    Guys,

    I do appreciate the feedback. All is right with the world (at least mine) now. The stress was really getting to me and I think I just flipped. A couple of days away from school depressurizing (no studying, no class, and lots of Cartoon Network) was just what the doctor ordered. I'm back and rarin' to go. Thanks again.
     
  10. Ponyboy

    Ponyboy Senior Member

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    Although, you have recovered from your breakdown and seem excited to get back to school, I would warn you to take measures to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Even though you are in the top third of your class, you seem to be paying a price for it in terms of your psychological well-being. I would suggest that you may want to consider easing up on your studies and finding some extracurricular activities. Like an above poster said, exercize is a great way to relieve stress as well as stay in shape. Find something outside of medicine.

    I'm saying this because I was in a very similar position. Since starting med school, I have wondered if this was right for me. I found that doing things totally unrelated to medicine helped me remove most of the stress in my life and placed alot of things, even medicine, into perspective.
     
  11. Justin4563

    Justin4563 Banned
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    Dude you need to get out of med school immediately.. If you are feeling this way now, how are you gonna feel when you are a clinical clerk and a resident when you are everyones doormat, nothing you think really matters and you are making s--- for pay!!!For all the trouble and effort you put forth its not worth it. Get out while you can and while your student loans are still reasonable
    sorry if this is harsh but its the truth..
    i am a 4th year resident now..... Im enjoying it but it wasnt worth the heart ache
     
  12. ScreamingTreesRule

    ScreamingTreesRule Senior Member

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    Justin,

    So if you had to do it over again, you would not do it? I'm applying right now. Where did you go to med school?
     
  13. daveshnave

    daveshnave Senior Member

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    Camjakb-
    Don't listen to justin... he seems to be within the minority of opinions. Not many people "love" medical school. It's a lot of work, especially the first two years. But after you take Step 1, everything gets better. Heck, for that matter things get better during second year, even the the workload is more intense, because "the big picture" comes into focus. You're obviously doing great, but you need to find something outside of school that intrigues you.... even if that means not being in the top third of your class. Is being in the top third that important when it means jeopardizing even being in school at all. Also, know that you're not alone. Many students go through what you've been feeling, only some are better at internalizing those feelings... remember, they're practicing to be future physicians... ;) Just make sure you find time to enjoy your life while in med school... you might not be able to enjoy it like you previously had, but it's still important to find SOME time to relax and be human. Don't give up... things will get better.
     
  14. Kevo

    Kevo Member

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    screaming trees do rule, by the way
     
  15. ScreamingTreesRule

    ScreamingTreesRule Senior Member

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    Kevo - You know it! :cool:

    Camjakb - I agree with Dave. How could it get any worse? You fail out? That end result is no different than quitting, so I would not give up just yet.

    Things will get better. :)

    ~
    Christine
     
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  17. Justin4563

    Justin4563 Banned
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    screaming trees

    I went to medschool at Univ of Louisville and it was fine.. good school excellent clinical professors but its just medicine. Its the same everywhere..

    no i wouldnt do it over again. If you put everything on a scale; time, money, love lost, friends lost, respect, its definitely not worthi t unless you are a martyr..... go to law school,business school etc. Im telling you this because many people told me the same thing and i didnt believe them......... and its worse now then it was when i was applying..
    sorry about being so negative but its true
     
  18. Annette

    Annette gainfully employed
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    camjakb, the other posters are right in that it does get better, and you need effective coping mechanisms. However, you also asked about if medicine is for you. With the extra time that the dean gave you, go spend some time seeing what physicians do after medical school. What area of medicine most interests you? See if you can spend some time shadowing a physician in that field. Check out some other fields as well. Iserson's book on getting into a residency and Anita Taylor's book on choosing a specialty might also help you decide if medicine is for you.

    Don't wait until you are in your second year (or later) to decide that medicine isn't for you. Medicine is a very expensive education, and you still have time to get out before you are trapped by the costs. And, even if you do decide later that clinical medicine isn't for you, there are lots of other options.

    Good luck with what ever you decide to do.
     
  19. fiatslug

    fiatslug Senior Member
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    camjakb, I'm also a non trad, with minimal science background, and I feel your pain. I'm in an area I hate, and my boyfriend is 5 and a half hours away. One of the ways I've made my peace is this: I don't give a rat's ass about grades, as long as I pass. I don't read old exams to "learn from my mistakes" or try to weasel a few points out of the professor--as soon as my number two goes back in my backpack, that test is done and out of my life. Of course, we're pass/fail here, which makes my slacking easier. First year sucks--second year seems a little better, in that there's SOME clinical relevance to what we're studying--but I too wonder if it's worth it. And I do play the lottery.

    I'm wondering why your dean was so ready to flip you--a student in the top 3rd of the class--to the five year plan because of a 48 hour mental vacation. I took many of those last year, and I still passed! Try and include some of the things you enjoyed from your old life in your current drudgery.
     
  20. SimulD

    SimulD Senior Member

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    Cam,

    I'm a first year, and I definitely don't have the problem you have - i love it here! But, I do see people who don't, and I know I could easily fall into that or just start burning out (I've never been up so early every day of the week, and not get a chance to nap or just watch TV)...

    I thought maybe a good idea would be to take a look at your schedule, and pick one day a week to just enjoy. Skip classes (you have a note service, right?), do something you like during the day that's not med oriented, and then do a little studying in the evening (or vice versa). As soon as this block is over, that's what I'm going to do (I made a promise that I wouldn't miss class for the first block).

    But, I totally feel you - sometimes you just wonder why you are doing what you are doing, if it is worthwhile, and why you aren't having fun (trust me, I was pretty depressed during undergrad years). Just find that focus, and try to get that fire in your belly that possessed you to go this crazy route in the first place (go shadow a doc you respect, or spend an afternoon in the free clinic). The fire is there, I'm sure, because you wouldn't have even started med school if it wasn't. Just look for it again.

    It will be worth it, I am sure of it...

    Simul Parikh
    Tulane Med '05
     
  21. cg1

    cg1 Senior Member

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    That sounds like great advice!
     
  22. srlondon

    srlondon Member

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    As a 4th year, one of the things that I find most interesting about med school is that it highlights the odd subjectivity of life. In short, your mileage can, and will, vary. You can ask ten people about a class/clerkship/movie/etc and invariable four will hate it, four will love it, and two won't remember the question long enough to answer it. So making decisions in your own lived based on the opinion of any one person (our distinguished visitor Justin included) is pure folly to begin with.

    From my perspective (which I encourage you to take with a grain of salt, and perhaps disregard completely if this suits you), med school is a long, winding, rocky road which, unlike many things in life has a guaranteed payout. Even if you slog it through school and decide you never want to touch another patient, you will have an eminently marketable degree which you will never regret having after your name. While med school is tough, it is hardly, hardly insurmountable. There are certainly things in life which are far worse. And for every doctor who bitches and moans about how his life sucks and how if he could go back and change everything he would have become a lawyer/chef/gigolo/fighter pilot there are 20 people stuck in crappy, low-end, minimum wage jobs with no useful responsibility, opportunity for creativity or self-expression, and certainly none of the intangible rewards that physicians get more than most people such as respect, social stature, and the feeling of doing something vaguely worthwhile with one's life. Joe Average never even has a glimpse of the things which make medicine so great, and he's largely miserable. And do you know what he does? He sucks it up and goes to work the next day because he doesn't have any alternatives.

    My point in saying this to you is not that I'm accusing you of being a whiner or an ingrate. Much to the contrary, I'm just trying to express the oft-forgotten point that while med school is no panacea, it is a lot better than most of the other things you could be doing with 4 years of your life. Is it always pleasant and enjoyable? No. But there have been days I've had in the hospital which I wouldn't trade for anything. Yes, it can be that rewarding and fun. Nobody's got any guarantees in life, and nobody said that life would be easy. Med school is no exception to this tenet.

    So where do you go from here? My suggestion is to stop worrying and first do a little re-evaluation of your life as a 1st yr. If you are busting your ass for your grades and not eating/sleeping/doing fun stuff, then you need to make some major changes in your schedule before you work yourself into the ground. There is no reason that you shouldn't schedule fun time into EVERY day. I don't care if you've got a biochem exam the next day. Watch TV. Read a book. Call a friend. Do you think that one single hour is really going to make this difference between passing and failing. No way in hell. Med school is a marathon, not a race, and you will either a) finish what started the weekend you walked away from school, b) run yourself completely into the ground, or c) destroy yourself as a person and finish up med school a miserable exhausted slob.

    Furthermore, do not mistake the basic science years for what the rest of your life will be like. They are like the nasty-tasting metallic wrapper which surrounds your favorite candy: They must be dealt with and disposed of in order to reveal the good stuff which lies beneath. Until you enter your clinical years and get a taste of what being a doctor is really like, then you have no real basis to decide on whether or not your are going to radically alter the course of the rest of your life based on what you're gonig to do for the next few years. Don't forget--medicine is not a single career. There are litterally hundreds of disparate turns your life can take... from researcher, to anesthesiology to urology.

    What to do now as a motivator to get through the 1st two years? Find something that you like doing, and do it whenever possible (check local laws in your area before doing anything hasty). Volunteer at a clinic and deal with patients, and let them remind you why you bothered with this nasty process in the first place. This never fails to make me feel better. Even in my darkest day in med school, walking into a patient's room and talking to them has never failed to make me feel better.

    I've gone on long enough, but let me just say that I would take this episode to be an indication of the fact that you might not be going about med school the right way rather that you are wrong for it or that it is impossible to make it through. Learn from your mistakes and give it another shot. You can drop out or decelerate at any time. But getting back in after you walk away is a lot tougher. And don't hesitate to drop me an email if there's anything else I can do to help.
     

  23. People with degrees in mathematics certainly do get a lot of respect. Before med school I attended an emt program. A man in the program use to get so much respect from the instructors and everyone we interacted with because he had a bachelor's degree in math. The instructors in the program all had a master's in biomedical science. Because this guy had a degree in math, he would always be referred to as "einstein."
     
  24. cg1

    cg1 Senior Member

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    Jules,
    I'm going to sound really dumb, but how does the "math major" fall into this equation? I apologize for being thick headed...I (as I'm sure a lot of you) have had a long day with all that's been goin on in the news...
     
  25. Ex-InfantryMedic

    Ex-InfantryMedic Junior Member

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    SRLondon,

    Your response to Cam to stay in school was one of the most thoughtful and wonderful responses I have seen in any forum, not just SDN.

    All I can say is that I hope that when I am a med student, I may have the opportunity to study/learn/shadow and perhaps laugh with/at you.

    Your attitude is what medicine is about. Rock on.
     
  26. pcl

    pcl Senior Member

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    I agree. Great advice!

    As a non-trad, I'm finding the adjustment quite difficult also, although I'm not to the burnout stage yet. What keeps me going is that my school gives us a lot of interaction with patients and tries to relate the clinical side to the basic science side of the education. It's hard to forget why I'm here when we see patients on a fairly regular basis.

    As a non-trad, you had to think very carefully about what you wanted, and why you wanted to do this. Go back to the point where you decided to take this journey and try to remind yourself of what you saw in the future that made you change your path. Maybe even re-reading your essays would help.

    As for JD MD, I have talked to many many residents at the middle to end of their last year, and I have only had one person say that they would think long and hard before doing it again. Most said they would go to med school, but might pick a different specialty, or said that they were happy with the choice.

    Good Luck!

    pcl
     
  27. snow100

    snow100 Member

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    hi cam

    i feel just like you, well almost!!! i can't study and am wondering if i really want to do this. i feel like sometimes i am so crazy. i am a first year. i was a zoology major and the program was good at my undergrad college and therefore i had a lot of exposure to science. but, i am kind of miserable too and am thinking of leaving or taking a year off. but, i DO know that the first year or two is hell because it is just basic sciences. i hear it gets better.

    i think the main question is do you want to be a doctor? you will be 35 or 40 years old anyway. plan now for your life in the future. if you don't mind me asking, why didn't you like being a person trainer? that is something that i kind of wanted to do and is still a possibility ;) . ok, ciao.

    snow
     

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