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May 22, 2020
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Hi,

I am currently an RN (been working almost 2 years now) thinking about eventually going back to school for either PA or MD/DO. I know the next step for an RN would generally be NP, but I honestly don't think that is the right track for me. The nursing model is great - I like the holistic approach to patient care, but I want to know more and why we do what we do. Why are we giving beta blockers for patients heart failure? Why amiodarone or calcium channel blockers for AFib? What are we going to do with patients who are coming in with history of black, tarry stools for the past few days and has a Hgb of 6.8? I know as an NP, I can still diagnose and prescribe, but after going through nursing school, I personally don't feel like the nursing model will adequately equip me with the knowledge I would need to safely work as a provider. I know there are many great NPs out there who are amazing at their job, but I am the type of person who needs that extra education to feel more confident in my job. There's just not enough science in the nursing courses to be honest.

My question is, which would be the better track or the more realistic one for me - PA or MD/DO? PA programs are shorter and cheaper, but if I was going to spend three years going back to school, should I just go all the way and try for med school? I am 29 years old, so is medical school even a realistic option for me? I have no prerequisites done for both programs (except for UC Davis, which doesn't require the more rigorous science courses), so I'd have to spend about 2 years taking the prerequisites (hopefully get into a postbacc?) and take the MCAT and then apply. By the time I become a full-fledged attending, I'll probably be in my 40s and $200K+ in debt. Financially, PA would be a better and more feasible option, but I'm afraid I'd be plagued by the what-ifs if I never try for med school. I grew up poor, never having much, so the thought of being in my 30s-40s as a resident making $50-60k and paying off debts sounds daunting, but manageable for me. I just want to be happy and satisfied in my career choice. Is it worth it to try to pursue med school at all? Will I be happier as a PA or MD/DO? I guess that's the question I really need to ask myself, but gaining different perspectives on my situation would also be really helpful.

Just a little background on me:

BA Economics, Ethnic Studies Minor from UC Berkeley - 3.64
BSN from Duke University School of Nursing - 3.86
Medical mission trip where we provided primary and emergency care to the very remote villages of Vietnam in 2014

No research experience
No recent volunteer experiences
No leadership experience

Looking at those stats, I feel like I have no chance of medical school at all anyway, so I'd appreciate if you were all just brutally honest with me and tell me if my medical school dreams are futile.
 

sunshinefl

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Former RN who also struggled with PA vs Physician, but ruled out NP for the same reasons you did.

Eventually, I figured if I already wanted to go further as an RN, how long until I was itching to go further as a PA. There are definitely some hard days I still feel that little twinkle of man I could have been done already (I’m an M4 now). But I think in the end it was right for me to do medical school.

I’ll be 38 when I become an attending. You’re not behind.

Your GPAs as of now are fine. Of course you’ll need to build a complete application with MCAT, GPA, extracurriculars that everybody does, not just think you’re a shoe-in as a nurse.

In the meantime if you’re still wavering, start working on pre-requisites common to both.
 

M&L

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Jul 23, 2018
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I am exactly where you were at your age - except I was in the military . I read this somewhere :”you are still gonna be 40 one day. Would you rather be a 40 year old doctor, or 40 year old something else?”.
I am 34, rising M2. Will be 37 when I graduate, 41 when I finish residency . It is not scary. Scary is being on your death bed and regretting not going for it.
 
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May 22, 2020
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Former RN who also struggled with PA vs Physician, but ruled out NP for the same reasons you did.

Eventually, I figured if I already wanted to go further as an RN, how long until I was itching to go further as a PA. There are definitely some hard days I still feel that little twinkle of man I could have been done already (I’m an M4 now). But I think in the end it was right for me to do medical school.

I’ll be 38 when I become an attending. You’re not behind.

Your GPAs as of now are fine. Of course you’ll need to build a complete application with MCAT, GPA, extracurriculars that everybody does, not just think you’re a shoe-in as a nurse.

In the meantime if you’re still wavering, start working on pre-requisites common to both.

I am exactly where you were at your age - except I was in the military . I read this somewhere :”you are still gonna be 40 one day. Would you rather be a 40 year old doctor, or 40 year old something else?”.
I am 34, rising M2. Will be 37 when I graduate, 41 when I finish residency . It is not scary. Scary is being on your death bed and regretting not going for it.

Thank you both for the quick reply! How did you both manage to take the prereqs while working? Did you have to go per diem or part-time? Did you take your prerequisites at a community college or a 4 year? I was just looking at some courses I may possibly be able to take now at UC Berkeley extension and they are very expensive. Is it frowned upon to take prereqs at a CC?
 

FutureSurgical

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Jul 2, 2014
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What you should also consider is how independent you’d like to be? PAs in large-part are going to be supervised (to a varying degree one way or another) by a physician. Do you want complete autonomy? Or are you okay with being supervised and potentially overruled by the practicing physician?

PA school will also not give you the in-depth knowledge you may want to learn.

How much of a work-life balance do you want? PA school and medical school are very demanding; however, are you okay with having days/weeks of grueling work in residency?

Lastly, I think your role in nursing can get you by without clinical volunteering. You should focus on non-clinical and maybe being a leader in your role currently. That will help you out a ton.
 

jhmmd

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Apr 28, 2020
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calduson said:
I am currently an RN (been working almost 2 years now) thinking about eventually going back to school for either PA or MD/DO. I know the next step for an RN would generally be NP, but I honestly don't think that is the right track for me. The nursing model is great - I like the holistic approach to patient care, but I want to know more and why we do what we do. Why are we giving beta blockers for patients heart failure? Why amiodarone or calcium channel blockers for AFib? What are we going to do with patients who are coming in with history of black, tarry stools for the past few days and has a Hgb of 6.8? I know as an NP, I can still diagnose and prescribe, but after going through nursing school, I personally don't feel like the nursing model will adequately equip me with the knowledge I would need to safely work as a provider. I know there are many great NPs out there who are amazing at their job, but I am the type of person who needs that extra education to feel more confident in my job. There's just not enough science in the nursing courses to be honest.

My question is, which would be the better track or the more realistic one for me - PA or MD/DO? PA programs are shorter and cheaper, but if I was going to spend three years going back to school, should I just go all the way and try for med school? I am 29 years old, so is medical school even a realistic option for me? I have no prerequisites done for both programs (except for UC Davis, which doesn't require the more rigorous science courses), so I'd have to spend about 2 years taking the prerequisites (hopefully get into a postbacc?) and take the MCAT and then apply. By the time I become a full-fledged attending, I'll probably be in my 40s and $200K+ in debt. Financially, PA would be a better and more feasible option, but I'm afraid I'd be plagued by the what-ifs if I never try for med school. I grew up poor, never having much, so the thought of being in my 30s-40s as a resident making $50-60k and paying off debts sounds daunting, but manageable for me. I just want to be happy and satisfied in my career choice. Is it worth it to try to pursue med school at all? Will I be happier as a PA or MD/DO? I guess that's the question I really need to ask myself, but gaining different perspectives on my situation would also be really helpful.

Just a little background on me:

BA Economics, Ethnic Studies Minor from UC Berkeley - 3.64
BSN from Duke University School of Nursing - 3.86
Medical mission trip where we provided primary and emergency care to the very remote villages of Vietnam in 2014

No research experience
No recent volunteer experiences
No leadership experience

Looking at those stats, I feel like I have no chance of medical school at all anyway, so I'd appreciate if you were all just brutally honest with me and tell me if my medical school dreams are futile.
From your post it sounds like you wouldn't be happy in your career unless the buck stops with you (you have the final say and all the responsibility ultimately falls on you, legally). You're going to need some clinical exp. outside of nursing to show that you're interested in becoming a MD/DO (if this is what you decide). Your GPA rocks and shows that you're good at test-taking, so there's a good chance that you'll do well on the MCAT. Take a prep course, rock the MCAT and beef up your ECs, esp. clinical volunteering. You'll be fine. :luck:
 
May 22, 2020
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What you should also consider is how independent you’d like to be? PAs in large-part are going to be supervised (to a varying degree one way or another) by a physician. Do you want complete autonomy? Or are you okay with being supervised and potentially overruled by the practicing physician?

PA school will also not give you the in-depth knowledge you may want to learn.

How much of a work-life balance do you want? PA school and medical school are very demanding; however, are you okay with having days/weeks of grueling work in residency?

Lastly, I think your role in nursing can get you by without clinical volunteering. You should focus on non-clinical and maybe being a leader in your role currently. That will help you out a ton.


From your post it sounds like you wouldn't be happy in your career unless the buck stops with you (you have the final say and all the responsibility ultimately falls on you, legally). You're going to need some clinical exp. outside of nursing to show that you're interested in becoming a MD/DO (if this is what you decide). Your GPA rocks and shows that you're good at test-taking, so there's a good chance that you'll do well on the MCAT. Take a prep course, rock the MCAT and beef up your ECs, esp. clinical volunteering. You'll be fine. :luck:

Thank you both for your replies and jhkmd for your encouragement! This makes me feel slightly better about my attempt at med school. What kind of non-clinical roles would you recommend? Are there any roles out there where I can still work my 3 12's while taking classes? I'm afraid to take the plunge and quit or cut back on my hours at my hospital job trying to pursue something that may end up being fruitless. Also, are CC courses a big no? If I can save thousands of dollars on prereqs and funnel that towards my medical school aspirations, that would be ideal. However, if adcomms will take one look at where I take my prereqs and scrap my applications, then I'd rather not waste my time and money taking these CC courses only to have to go back to a 4 year and retake them.
 

sunshinefl

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Jul 28, 2014
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Thank you both for the quick reply! How did you both manage to take the prereqs while working? Did you have to go per diem or part-time? Did you take your prerequisites at a community college or a 4 year? I was just looking at some courses I may possibly be able to take now at UC Berkeley extension and they are very expensive. Is it frowned upon to take prereqs at a CC?

Some of my pre-reqs were from CC which is where my ASN was. Then I transferred to a 4 year uni where I completed a BS psych and the rest of the pre-reqs and more.

I worked as a prison nurse. I was classified as PRN but worked two 12s on the weekends. During the week I went to school, and on the weekends I worked. On the weekends, sometimes I worked Friday night and Saturday night, sometimes I did Saturday day and Sunday day. On holiday and semester breaks I picked up extra shifts.
 
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