RN to MD

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Apr 17, 2006
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Anybody out there previously a nurse and went back to school to become an MD? Any comments on how your experience differed from the average medical student? Transition moments from being a person with responsibilities to the medical student who's not supposed to know or touch anything in the hospital? Or how to cope with whiny, arrogant fellow med students with no clinical experience who think they know everything?

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stay way below the radar and ignore the BS because it will only come back to bite you in the a$$$. This is my 3rd rotation and all the doc have realized I may have a few more skills then the average 3rd year. This has afforded me the opportunity to spend more time with the patient and less time with the books in an attempt to figure out what a patient looks like.

I just finished peds and took the time to review questions from the peds board and discuss the difficult ones with my preceptor - he provided me with the questions and prodded me for the difficult cases. SO by not being an annoying, whining, "I am not learning anything" third year I just shut my mouth and it all worked out.

Anyways, I figure if the "other" students want to whine let them and take care of yourself. It only takes one second to leave a bad impression and possibly a receive a poor grade in your rotation

my 2 cents adjusted for inflation
I'm a second year at an Ivy League med school as well as an RN and EMT-Paramedic. I also choose not to make it known that I have significant clinical experience. My main reason was the sheer arrogance which most nurses are treated with, especially by med students. I also didn't want to get the reputation as, "the guy to go to to save your ass when you don't know what you're doing." I haven't started rotations yet but have observed patients in a group with other students. I obviously feel much more comfortable in clinical settings than the average med student and I take this as a huge advantage. While they are worried about getting a NG or and IV and how to act in front of a patient, I can focus on thinking and acting like a doctor. I feel becoming a nurse was one of the single best things I did to prepare myself for medical school and would highly recommend it to others. Just be careful about how you present yourself to adcomms since some are still hostile towards nurses and how much you choose to share of your background with fellow students.
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First of all, congratulations on your goals!

I had several years of nursing under my belt when I applied to med school, and am now in my 4th yr, applying for residency spots.

It's not easy to make the transition, and I think there's been great advice on flying a little below the radar and how nursing gives us an advantage as med students (as far as practical interviewing, physical exam and procedural skills go). Needless to say, you will rock third year, and it's a very important year!

It can be tough to keep one's mouth shut, though. :laugh:

I found the hardest parts to get over were:
1.) the lack of real world, hands on work during the first two years. I definitely had developed learning skills that were based on seeing and doing while being a nurse - it made reading more poignant. The first 2 yrs of med school are, unfortunately, reading reading and more reading. It was hard for me to make the transition back to purely classroom based learning. (Even if you do case based learning, the cases that are devised are never really true to life!)
2.) being older and wishing at times that I had gone to med school sooner. But, I wouldn't be where I am if I hadn't been a nurse.
3.) The much grieved loss of a steady and pretty decent paycheck. :mad: Still waiting on this one!

But, once you get back to the clinical rotations, it's all worth it. You will be amazed at how much you've grown, not only in terms of the knowledge gained, but in terms of your perspective on life and the benefit of working harder than you ever thought you could.

What does amaze me, and what I hadn't expected, is that now, as I show people my CV and discuss future career goals, they are generally very shocked and surprisingly impressed about my former career and the fact that I decided to go to med school. Maybe it shows them a different kind of gusto? Maybe it lets them know you'll be great clinically? Maybe it's just proof of dedication? I don't really know, but I am taking it all in stride! That can maybe help withstand a lot of the **** that floats in the proverbial toilet bowl of the first two yrs.

If you get into the conversation with seemingly hostile admissions committees, you can say that while you're glad you were a nurse, that it prepared you in certain ways for the practice of medicine, you do need med school to achieve your dreams, and you have lots to learn, etc. It will help take some of the hostility out of the equation. And it's not entirely untrue, right? It just might suck to have to give in a little to manipulate that specific situation.:eek:

Another thing to keep in mind:
I am a lot happier and less stressed about the whole path to becoming an MD than some of my more naive counterparts, b/c I know what it is like to be in a job I didn't exactly love. But now, I am 110% sure that I was meant to be an MD. It feels good and takes a lot of stress off your shoulders when you can be certain you've picked the right goals, and it gets you through the rougher patches.

Good Luck!
Anybody out there previously a nurse and went back to school to become an MD? Any comments on how your experience differed from the average medical student? Transition moments from being a person with responsibilities to the medical student who's not supposed to know or touch anything in the hospital? Or how to cope with whiny, arrogant fellow med students with no clinical experience who think they know everything?

Wow, this is exactly the wrong attitude to have coming into medical school. Everyone's going to have their own strengths based on previous experience, personality, and intelligence. You (and this applies to a med student with a PhD in neuroscience, or a med student who did 8 years of EMT work, or a med student who counseled cancer patients or a med student who has 8 first author publications or a med student who was a PA) would do well to approach every class/rotation as if you're on the same level as everyone else, as most of the time you will be. If your previous experience affords you an advantage, great.

But as Tired mentioned, you sound whiny and arrogant and think you know everything already....
In all fairness, I think this is kind of typical for people with experience in health care. Starting down the med school road is pretty intimidting, and falling back on "I know all about the hospital, whereas my classmates are just kids" is a nice defence mechanism. I suspect the OP is really just alleviating a little internal angst, rather than really representing his/her true feelings.

Or maybe I'm just justifying it because I was the same way when I started.

I stand by what I said in my post, but apologize if I spoke for you.

Pretty much everyone entering med school has had at least some clinical experience, many extensive. Everyone's got different assets. It was just a stupid post.
["You" of course being a general term for those just starting out, not a "you" directed to rocktor]
I figured you were speaking broadly, but appreciate your clarification!
I will also be using the royal "you "..........

I think when you work in healthcare as a prior career, you get socialized to whichever role you're fulfilling, in addition to learning the science behind it. It's tough to leave behind an identity as an RN, even when you want to, b/c it had it's own clinical responsibilities that don't get absorbed into the role of an MD.

Pretty much everyone entering med school has had at least some clinical experience, many extensive. Everyone's got different assets.
In my case, I was the only one in a class of 140 first years who had more than one year of experience in healthcare - the median age was 23 and there were only 5 of us over 24 when we started! That's intimidating as well, and I know my own arrogant attitude was a defense against being so "old" and justifying, even if only to myself, why it took me so long to get to med school. I didn't want to feel like my 5 yrs in nursing had been a waste of time.
As I grind through my third year I can appreciate the SMALL advantage my prior clinical experience gave me. I can whip through an H & P and psych exams...

I also found out (via 3rd year) that I have a lot to learn. I was in the ER and a pt need sutures. No problema - just whipped it out and got a "good job" from the Ortho guy. What I was missing was a complete run down of the antibiotics for complicated lacerations that are infected and the causative organisms. Could name most of the bugs but tripped up on the drugs.

Now, one of my more industrious 3rd year classmates that had no clinical experience but better organization skills would have already studied all of that and rattled it off...

My point is that I have relied an my clinical skills which provided a little polish and a bit of flash and not enough time ready the fundamentals. I got caught up in the I can do that...

So I am retooling to get as much reading done during my IM rotation and less time looking for procedures (which the interns do anyway).

My 2 cents - good luck everyone.

The old man
goodness, haven't checked this forum in a few days, and had not expected so many replies. Thanks for all your replies, especially the ones with the buck up, it'll get better tone. Alot of what you wrote echoed how I've felt, and it's very validating. I agree with trying to stay below the radar. Seems smart, and common sense. As for whether it's me or my fellow classmates being whiny, arrogant and a know it all; I'd like to clarify. I realize I have some clinical instinct; I worked as an ER RN for 4 years. I went from being a nursing grad who thought any patient could code on her, to being able to manage a room full of four critical patients (and no tech). Oftentimes, in class, I have questions. I worry that if I ask them, knowing most of the class does not have the experience to know what I'm talking about, that I may be wasting their time, and come off appearing as a show off. I usually wait until after class to approach the professor and ask the question in private. Whiny, arrogant students refers to students who have no clinical experience, who read a line in a book and feel it is their responsibility to correct the clinician lecturing us. Or ones who treat class as though it's their own private tutoring session and waste class time with questions that (to me, from my clinical perspective) appear irrelevant. I wonder to myself why they can't give me and the class the courtesy that I give them. Although, nowadays, (second year) the clinicians are less patient with some of these questions and often request that students wait until after class. My goal in medical school is to learn what I always questioned and was curious to know more about as I practiced nursing. I don't ever sit in class, thinking I know this already, don't have to be here. I'm also about ten years older than most of the students. I don't think about trying to show off, I'm trying harder to incorporate physiology, into the templates I already have in my head that I used on the job. Rocktor elaborated exactly how I've felt. It's tough going from a time when you had a role and a significant amount of responsibility in a hospital. You function on a completely different level. You don't learn things to pass tests, you learn because you need to in order to do your job, which in the case of being in an ER, to try and save a person's life). You function by doing and seeing, and being quick on your feet, thinking fast, knowing where things are, knowing how to work with people, basically cut out bull**** and get the job done. There is no room for whining, in an ER, whiners got ostracized. Going back to school is tough. Med school by nature is competitive, but it's a petty sort of competition, based on marks, showcasing in class, and ass kissing with future recommendation writers. Whining about why we have to take certain classes (physiology), or being arrogant enough to ask the professor to please correct the upwards facing arrow on her power point slide that's aligned with hyPOnatremia, or insisting that their lecture is going too slow, and that we don't need to go over biochemistry of the RBC because we just took biochemistry. My response is: you have yet to touch a patient, let the hematologist talk and tell us how biochemistry is relevant to hematology. I'm amazed at that arrogance, I wouldn't dare request something like that our of sheer respect for the lecturer. If I knew everything already, I wouldn't have a need to be here. And so yes, I am letting out a little angst, due to patience running thin. But it is med school and I am stressed as you all I'm sure know. Thanks for being understanding and thanks for all your valuable insights, they were very helpful.