Should I pursue medical school after NP school?

  • Yes, start preparing to apply when done with NP school

    Votes: 3 8.8%
  • Yes, but start taking one or two pre-requisites while finishing NP school to hasten the process

    Votes: 8 23.5%
  • Work as an NP for a year and decide then

    Votes: 15 44.1%
  • No, stick with NP

    Votes: 8 23.5%

  • Total voters
    34
Nov 29, 2020
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Hi everyone,
I am currently in year 2 of NP school. I'm 26 years old with 3 years RN experience, been working part time through the program. Needless to say, somehow I am just now waking up to how underwhelmed and lack of depth my program has been. I study a lot on my own terms, and use all chance I can to broaden my knowledge base. I didn't go to NP school to become a physician, nor do I think NPs have the same role as physicians. However, I feel a void in the lack of pure science and deep knowledge of physiology, patho, pharm, etc. that I desire to be an APP.

The last 2 months I can't get my mind off going to medical school. I know I have to finish this program, because quitting with only 8 or so months left would not look good to admissions offices. The main things really holding me back to definitely pursue it after NP school are my age/relationship situation and my fear of becoming so burnt out due to the rigor of med school and residency after 8 years of nursing school and NP school. But I honestly crave the intense studying and curriculum to truly learn the material. I enjoyed it in undergrad when I took a lot of science classes at a difficult private college. My fiance is 25 and wants to apply to med school next cycle. Taking him into account, there is no way we could be away for 3-4 years in med school, so I would most likely have to get into whichever school he gets into or one within an hour drive away or so. Plus, we want to have children, and my parents are getting up there. This makes the decision a lot more messy and limits my chances of getting in. Otherwise, it would be a no brainer if it was just me, myself, and I to worry about.

I also am not sure how I would do the pre-reqs. I took some pre-med classes in undergrad except for biochemistry, physics, and calculus (which I understand biochem is the one that all require). I took Organic 1 and 2, biology and microbiology, plus all my nursing courses (which I know holds little weight). My overall undergrad GPA for was 3.48, and my GPA now in grad school is around 3.85. Not sure if I would need to do a post-bacc to retake many of those classes as they could be 6-7 years old by the time I apply and I could boost my science GPA, or just take the ones I need individually (which would be the easier option). Plus I don't know if I'd have a chance at studying for/taking the MCAT without retaking them as it's been so long since I took those science classes. I'd basically be relearning a lot of the material.

Any advice, insight, anything would help. I know this is my own decision to make, but hearing from others never hurts. The other option would to be just continue to grind as an NP student, teaching myself as much as I can, and continue to do so in my NP career. I am passionate for nursing, but not as passionate as I am about learning the human sciences.
 
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Bloobury

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That's a really tough situation.

One thing I can say with relative certainty is you don't have to worry about "old" coursework. I don't think many (if any) schools care anymore about coursework "expiring", as long as you have decent grades and some recent coursework. So you shouldn't have to retake anything. I studied for the MCAT like 10 years after taking most of my prereqs and did just fine with Khan Academy videos as a refresher.

As far as actual advice on your career, I'd advise that you try working as an NP for a while and see how you like it. That will give you a real feel for the differences in knowledge and job responsibilities of a physician versus an NP. Right now all you know is being an RN and being in school. Perhaps you'd actually enjoy being an NP more than you think.

And the more important reasoning for taking some time in the workforce is that when you went to NP school, you made a commitment to a career in nursing. Not that you can't change your mind, but it might look bad if you were to change your mind before you actually have any experience in the field. How is an ADCOM to know that you wouldn't feel the same way in M3 or M4 or in residency?

You will never be too old to go back to school, if that is what you desire. It's not a bad thing to think about the greener grass on the other side of the fence, and even to sniff around and try to find a way to get to it. There are also lots of options for continual learning as an NP. The only real difference comes down to scope of practice limitations / prestige / taking on more debt / salary increase / more responsibility / etc. The actual knowledge is something you can control, by taking it upon yourself to never stop learning.

Best wishes, whatever you decide.
 
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I agree with @Bloobury. Finish the NP degree and work for a year or two to see where it takes you first. Med schools aren't going anywhere any time soon.
 
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As an NP and now MS1, I can tell you that it would benefit you by completing the degree. I totally understand your situation as I was in your shoes 3 years ago, and I realized that I was not satisfied with the superficial medical training that I received. I worked as an NP for 2 years before deciding to go back to medical school, and worked part time while taking pre-requisites to prepare for my application. You are still young, since I am 34 years old now as MS1, so time is definitely on your side. Just keep in mind that having an NP degree may or may not help you secure an interview from medical schools, and the MCAT exam will either make or break your chance. There are many other NPs and PAs in this forum, and I am sure that others can chime in. I am glad though that you decide to go deep into medicine, you will not regret it, and neither did I.
 
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Doc_Ock

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To add a point- most of what you learn in med school will come from self-study too. If you go into med school expecting amazing teaching you're gonna be sorely disappointed.
 
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I think some adcoms on here (I think @Goro was one of them?) said that it doesn't look too good to drop out of a graduate degree program (there have been posts about quitting NP/PA school, and even law school), since it gives them doubt about whether you'll get cold feet during medical school as well.

From what I've read around here, you should at least try to complete the NP degree.

You have RN experience, so clinical exp. is already said and done. This would mean you'd need nonclinical volunteering, potentially shadowing, any missing prereqs, and LoRs.

Are you able to maybe take like 1 missing medical prerequisite course at a time (e.g. if you're missing Physics), per semester? If that's doable, then maybe you can check off some things before finishing NP school. I have 0 idea about how NP school works though, so I don't know how viable that is.
 
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That's a really tough situation.

One thing I can say with relative certainty is you don't have to worry about "old" coursework. I don't think many (if any) schools care anymore about coursework "expiring", as long as you have decent grades and some recent coursework. So you shouldn't have to retake anything. I studied for the MCAT like 10 years after taking most of my prereqs and did just fine with Khan Academy videos as a refresher.

As far as actual advice on your career, I'd advise that you try working as an NP for a while and see how you like it. That will give you a real feel for the differences in knowledge and job responsibilities of a physician versus an NP. Right now all you know is being an RN and being in school. Perhaps you'd actually enjoy being an NP more than you think.

And the more important reasoning for taking some time in the workforce is that when you went to NP school, you made a commitment to a career in nursing. Not that you can't change your mind, but it might look bad if you were to change your mind before you actually have any experience in the field. How is an ADCOM to know that you wouldn't feel the same way in M3 or M4 or in residency?

You will never be too old to go back to school, if that is what you desire. It's not a bad thing to think about the greener grass on the other side of the fence, and even to sniff around and try to find a way to get to it. There are also lots of options for continual learning as an NP. The only real difference comes down to scope of practice limitations / prestige / taking on more debt / salary increase / more responsibility / etc. The actual knowledge is something you can control, by taking it upon yourself to never stop learning.

Best wishes, whatever you decide.
Thank you for your reply. That's good to hear that my undergrad classes would still matter and that studying for the MCAT would be possible. I'm a pretty decent self-learner so I'd likely be using online sources and preparation books abundantly as my main source of learning/studying and not undergrad classes.

In terms of my degree, that's why I know I have to finish this program, it just looks bad going cold turkey in a program. And if anything, it would at least help me have some career experience as an NP, which would certainly help my insight into NP vs. physician and give it a chance.
 
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As an NP and now MS1, I can tell you that it would benefit you by completing the degree. I totally understand your situation as I was in your shoes 3 years ago, and I realized that I was not satisfied with the superficial medical training that I received. I worked as an NP for 2 years before deciding to go back to medical school, and worked part time while taking pre-requisites to prepare for my application. You are still young, since I am 34 years old now as MS1, so time is definitely on your side. Just keep in mind that having an NP degree may or may not help you secure an interview from medical schools, and the MCAT exam will either make or break your chance. There are many other NPs and PAs in this forum, and I am sure that others can chime in. I am glad though that you decide to go deep into medicine, you will not regret it, and neither did I.

Well you definitely give me hope that it won't be too late. I have a hunch I'll be in the same situation as you. I am trying to fill the knowledge gaps on my own as much as I can, but there's so dang much to learn that it's just overwhelming and it needs to be in a structured, timeline fashion. But, I'm doing what I can. I definitely don't want to be one of those NPs whose superficial education shows and doesn't dive deeper into the "why" and the science. Keep up the work, and good luck on your medical school journey. I'm a bit jealous to say the least that you will be living out my current dream.
 
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To add a point- most of what you learn in med school will come from self-study too. If you go into med school expecting amazing teaching you're gonna be sorely disappointed.
Completely agree, but the problem is that you need a strong medical knowledge foundation to build upon later on. It is hard to start working as an NP and have no idea the difference between Group A Strep vs Group B Strep. I did not know the difference between gram positive vs gram negative bacteria, I just learned to give Amoxicillin if I suspect Strep throat. NP schools do not go deep into medicine at all. Clinical experience will come to anyone once you practice medicine for a while, but what NPs will not have a is a strong medical knowledge foundation.
 
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Well you definitely give me hope that it won't be too late. I have a hunch I'll be in the same situation as you. I am trying to fill the knowledge gaps on my own as much as I can, but there's so dang much to learn that it's just overwhelming and it needs to be in a structured, timeline fashion. But, I'm doing what I can. I definitely don't want to be one of those NPs whose superficial education shows and doesn't dive deeper into the "why" and the science. Keep up the work, and good luck on your medical school journey. I'm a bit jealous to say the least that you will be living out my current dream.
You will do much better than me, I believe that any NPs who think of going back to medical school have a genuine call to become a physician. Remember, at the end of the day, you are not alone in this journey. We follow the footsteps of those who have walked the path before, you can do it. Keep us posted!
 
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To add a point- most of what you learn in med school will come from self-study too. If you go into med school expecting amazing teaching you're gonna be sorely disappointed.

Yeah, but there is a huge, huge difference. Especially when it comes to clinical hours, and the classes you have to take. I had only 7 weeks of pathophysiology total. 7 weeks. Not to mention they somehow crammed physiology and anatomy in those 7 weeks and just called it a patho class. It's quite frightening, because there's no way all students in my situation with a lack of rigor in their programs are diving deeper into the material and actually trying to learn this stuff, rather than doing the bare minimum that is required. We do review some anatomy, patho, and phys in some of the other more clinical based classes. But not to mention, lots of fluff assignments and classes otherwise. So far, I've had to take population health, health politics, health promotion, role development, and a few other classes that have little to no application to actual practice. I'm going to school to be a midlevel provider, not a public health nurse.

There are more rigorous NP programs, but honestly, even some of the higher ranked, brick and mortar ones are like mine I have heard. It's just not the standard for NP schools to have to meet those marks or cover more material.
 
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Completely agree, but the problem is that you need a strong medical knowledge foundation to build upon later on. It is hard to start working as an NP and have no idea the difference between Group A Strep vs Group B Strep. I did not know the difference between gram positive vs gram negative bacteria, I just learned to give Amoxicillin if I suspect Strep throat. NP schools do not go deep into medicine at all. Clinical experience will come to anyone once you practice medicine for a while, but what NPs will not have a is a strong medical knowledge foundation.

Yep... I've recently been diving into more microbiology study on my own, learning the different types and what not (covered some of it in undergrad that was required for nursing), and I am thinking, "why doesn't this apply to being an NP?" We are prescribing antibiotics to treat these bacteria, we need to know the differences. Do they just think we'll somehow learn it on our own or on the job? It's not enough to have a pathophysiology course and two primary care courses that cover all specialties and say that's enough.
 
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Are you able to maybe take like 1 missing medical prerequisite course at a time (e.g. if you're missing Physics), per semester? If that's doable, then maybe you can check off some things before finishing NP school. I have 0 idea about how NP school works though, so I don't know how viable that is.
That's what I was thinking of doing. Biochem is the main one I need, but not sure if I should take physics and calculus (I would need pre-calc most likely too in that case), as I know some schools require one or both of those as well. I don't mind taking them as I know they may help for the MCAT too.
 

Angus Avagadro

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I'll only address the relationship issue. My wife, fiance then, finished 3 yrs of undergrad before going to medical school in the same city I was med student. So we were apart for 3 yrs. We started a family when my wife was a 3rd yr resident and I was an attending. Our parents were not interested in childcare. We hired a Nanny. It can be done. There is a couples match and many programs will give consideration to accepting an applicant whose spouse is also in training at that institution or other local programs. So its all doable, both of you need a very strong desire to be together and make it work as a team.
Good luck and best wishes!
 
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You will do much better than me, I believe that any NPs who think of going back to medical school have a genuine call to become a physician. Remember, at the end of the day, you are not alone in this journey. We follow the footsteps of those who have walked the path before, you can do it. Keep us posted!
Thanks! I appreciate the encouragement a lot. Since we're here, and I think I'm gonna continue to be crazy overwhelmed trying to learn as much as I can now and when I become an NP, is there any areas you recommend focusing on that can make my studying more realistic and most helpful to me as a new NP? I've been going over microbiology, antibiotics, cardiovascular physiology, and studying more in depth women's health sciences such as pregnancy, hormones, etc. (since I'm currently in that class and forced to read chapters that don't really focus on the science). I know that's barely scraping the surface of material, but it won't hurt. Or just keep doing what I'm doing?
 
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I'll only address the relationship issue. My wife, fiance then, finished 3 yrs of undergrad before going to medical school in the same city I was med student. So we were apart for 3 yrs. We started a family when my wife was a 3rd yr resident and I was an attending. Our parents were not interested in childcare. We hired a Nanny. It can be done. There is a couples match and many programs will give consideration to accepting an applicant whose spouse is also in training at that institution or other local programs. So its all doable, both of you need a very strong desire to be together and make it work as a team.
Good luck and best wishes!
This really helps, a lot. I guess being apart will have to happen if we can't get into the same medical school or I can't find a job where he gets into school. Or unable to match at the same residency. I'm hoping he gets accepted in a state with multiple med schools or schools with dual DO/MD programs to increase likelihood of being in the same state. Props to you guys for that sacrifice. Gotta look at the longer and bigger picture!
 
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Doc_Ock

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Yeah, but there is a huge, huge difference. Especially when it comes to clinical hours, and the classes you have to take. I had only 7 weeks of pathophysiology total. 7 weeks. Not to mention they somehow crammed physiology and anatomy in those 7 weeks and just called it a patho class. It's quite frightening, because there's no way all students in my situation with a lack of rigor in their programs are diving deeper into the material and actually trying to learn this stuff, rather than doing the bare minimum that is required. We do review some anatomy, patho, and phys in some of the other more clinical based classes. But not to mention, lots of fluff assignments and classes otherwise. So far, I've had to take population health, health politics, health promotion, role development, and a few other classes that have little to no application to actual practice. I'm going to school to be a midlevel provider, not a public health nurse.

There are more rigorous NP programs, but honestly, even some of the higher ranked, brick and mortar ones are like mine I have heard. It's just not the standard for NP schools to have to meet those marks or cover more material.
Jesus, I didn't know it was that bad. The general consensus seems to favor PA's over NP's and I'm starting to see why. I only meant that it seemed you were frustrated by all the self-studying you had to do, just wanted you to know that doesn't change in med school.
 

DoctorWhere

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Take prereqs as part of a DIY postbac and study for the MCAT while working as an NP. You'll have time to mull everything over in your head throughout. As an added bonus, you'll get exposure from your work with physicians to give you more insight.
 
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