Should I stick with medicine or look for something else?


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Jun 24, 2019
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Hello! I just finished my first year as an undergrad pre-med student and for some reason am suddenly starting to have doubts about doing medicine. I figured I would post this on here rather than the pre-med forum in order to get advice from those who have actually experienced medicine.

Let me start by giving a little bit of background about myself. I'd say I am a pretty good student (in the most honest but trying to be humble way possible). I currently have about a 3.855 GPA after my first year of college, have gotten As in all of my pre-med classes so far, and have already started research. I've been wanting to be a doctor for a while now (since around middle school, and I have shadowed physicians and volunteered at hospitals in the past), but ever since this summer started, I have been experiencing MAJOR feelings of doubt.

I think a lot of this doubt comes from the fear of selling my life away during medical school and residency. I've been reading posts on posts about people's experiences in medicine and just seeing how busy and unhappy some people are makes me SO SCARED. On the other hand though, the people who so seem happy are people who live and breathe medicine. While I do find medicine interesting, I don't think it's to the extent of some other people, which worries me.

I am also a HUGE people person (I REALLY need time with my family and friends) and the idea of not being able to spend enough time with them really freaks me out. I've always been a hard worker and have put time and effort into my studies, but my priority is definitely my friends and family and I think this will always remain a priority for me. I don't know if I'm willing to totally sacrifice a life outside of medicine in order to become a doctor. I know delayed gratification is a huge idea in medicine, but I just don't know if I can delay my gratification for that long.

Also, one of my top specialties at the moment is dermatology... which I know is A LOT OF HARD WORK and basically impossible to match into. I do have other specialties that I am interested in, which gives me some comfort.

Another thing is that I love doing dissections and am okay with blood. But, because I am so emotional, I don't think I can pursue a specialty dealing with a lot of life or death situations (so most likely ruling out surgery, emergency medicine, oncology, etc.). Honestly, I don't know how relevant this point is (since I know there are many specialties that don't deal with life and death situations), but I thought I would mention it anyway in case anyone found it something to be of issue.

Overall, I am terribly confused. The idea of becoming a doctor is so appealing to me. I love helping people (I know that this is a typical answer don't attack me), I love science (especially biology and specifically anatomy), I obviously am very attracted to the lifestyle of physicians, I am a naturally curious person, I like communicating with people, and I have always been the person who attempts to diagnose my friends when they have any sort of issues. I honestly cannot imagine myself having any other career. However, I am just so scared of so many things attached to the road of becoming a doctor. I really don't know if I am cut out for it. So, please help!! Give me any advice you may have!

Tl;dr: I am very interested in becoming a doctor, but don't know if I'm cut out for it. Please help!
 
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TakotsuboOkazaki

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Based on the organization of your post & your username it seems like you are having very normal thoughts for a first-year undergraduate. In fact, I think you have done some good initial self-analysis.

Continue to explore your thoughts on medicine throughout the next few years as you progress. Getting involved in the medical field in some way will facilitate the distillation of your thoughts on the field & your potential membership in it. There is little pressure right now in life, so just focus on doing well in school and exploring.

I worked in the biotech industry for a year after college. In that one year I met a lot of underpaid, overworked people who have just as many problems with their lives as medical students, residents, and physicians.

There is no escaping the fact that (short of winning the lottery or being born into wealth) life isn't going to be a joyride. However, with the right perspectives and always having a path forward will make any walk of life more pleasant.

Take care.
 
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GoSpursGo

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The Med student forums are for current medical students to discuss issues relevant to their med school, not an AMA for Med students. Thus I’m moving this to pre-med.

As goro said, shadow and volunteer. You’re early enough that you have plenty of time to decide on another path if that’s what you want. I actually encourage pre meds to take a year or two after college to get more real world experience to 1) make sure medicine is really what they want, and 2) strengthen your application with ECs when you’re out of college and thus allow you to focus on your grades, which is the most important thing along withcthe MCAT.
 
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plshelpvanxious

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I agree with the posts above, and I also recommend looking into other options while continuing on as premed. Maybe these doubts are significant and there is something out there that is a better fit! Keep an open mind and get some more experience.
 
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You can always be a part-time family physician, still make bank, chill, and help others at the same time.
 
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Ligament

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Hello! I just finished my first year as an undergrad pre-med student and for some reason am suddenly starting to have doubts about doing medicine. I figured I would post this on here rather than the pre-med forum in order to get advice from those who have actually experienced medicine.

Let me start by giving a little bit of background about myself. I'd say I am a pretty good student (in the most honest but trying to be humble way possible). I currently have about a 3.855 GPA after my first year of college, have gotten As in all of my pre-med classes so far, and have already started research. I've been wanting to be a doctor for a while now (since around middle school), but ever since this summer started, I have been experiencing MAJOR feelings of doubt.

I think a lot of this doubt comes from the fear of selling my life away during medical school and residency. I've been reading posts on posts about people's experiences in medicine and just seeing how busy and unhappy some people are makes me SO SCARED. On the other hand though, the people who so seem happy are people who live and breathe medicine. While I do find medicine interesting, I don't think it's to the extent of some other people, which worries me.

I am also a HUGE people person (I REALLY need time with my family and friends) and the idea of not being able to spend enough time with them really freaks me out. I've always been a hard worker and have put time and effort into my studies, but my priority is definitely my friends and family and I think this will always remain a priority for me. I don't know if I'm willing to totally sacrifice a life outside of medicine in order to become a doctor. I know delayed gratification is a huge idea in medicine, but I just don't know if I can delay my gratification for that long.

Also, one of my top specialties at the moment is dermatology... which I know is A LOT OF HARD WORK and basically impossible to match into. I do have other specialties that I am interested in, which gives me some comfort.

Another thing is that I love doing dissections and am okay with blood. But, because I am so emotional, I don't think I can pursue a specialty dealing with a lot of life or death situations (so most likely ruling out surgery, emergency medicine, oncology, etc.). Honestly, I don't know how relevant this point is (since I know there are many specialties that don't deal with life and death situations), but I thought I would mention it anyway in case anyone found it something to be of issue.

Overall, I am terribly confused. The idea of becoming a doctor is so appealing to me. I love helping people (I know that this is a typical answer don't attack me), I love science (especially biology and specifically anatomy), I obviously am very attracted to the lifestyle of physicians, I am a naturally curious person, I like communicating with people, and I have always been the person who attempts to diagnose my friends when they have any sort of issues. I honestly cannot imagine myself having any other career. However, I am just so scared of so many things attached to the road of becoming a doctor. I really don't know if I am cut out for it. So, please help!! Give me any advice you may have!

Tl;dr: I am very interested in becoming a doctor, but don't know if I'm cut out for it. Please help!

You sound like a nice, well adjusted well socialized person.

You cannot have time with your friends and family at any point in a medical career unless you are one of the VERY few who match into a "lifestyle" specialty. Don't count on doing so. It is hard. You will be in your 30's by the time you start your job, and your "normie" friends will have already had many years work under their belts, had kids, been able to see their kids, purchased homes, etc. Furthermore you'll have to move many times for clinicals, internship, residency, fellowship. You will, on average, be around $300k in debt right out of the gate, and your income potential will steadily drop every year.

If you are "so emotional" you cannot fathom being around life or death situations, that is ok, but most likely means you should not be a physician. You will encounter this many, many times just getting through internship and residency. Does not mean you have to like it, but you need to handle it.

You can "help people" in any number of careers. Medicine is not the only one that allows it. Become a teacher, for example. Get to help a lot of people that way with easy hours, many months off per year, no life or death situations. My parents were teachers and had a fantastic lifestyle with great security. Tons of ways to help people outside fo medicine.

Medicine is a terrible career path unless it is the only thing you can imagine doing, and even then it is not a great choice. Too much sacrifice for too little reward. Physicians are paid less every year, are increasingly viewed as interchangable cogs in the machine to serve hospital adminsitrators and the federal government, are resented by everybody, and sued frequently. That combined with the years of sacrifice / oppportunity cost, makes it a very poor choice in general.

Physicians used to be paid well and were able to form their own clinics and small businesses and enjoy some autonomy. They are paid crap now and by the time you finish training only a small percent will be able to go into private practice.

Addendum; dont forget about noctors continually encroaching into the specialty, nurses calling themselves doctors, PAs gaining independent practice rights, Naturopaths fighting for equal reimbursment from insurance companies, nurse anesthestits calling themselves "anesthesiologists..." These pretenders are totally out of control.
 
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JanetSnakehole

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Hello! I just finished my first year as an undergrad pre-med student and for some reason am suddenly starting to have doubts about doing medicine. I figured I would post this on here rather than the pre-med forum in order to get advice from those who have actually experienced medicine.

Let me start by giving a little bit of background about myself. I'd say I am a pretty good student (in the most honest but trying to be humble way possible). I currently have about a 3.855 GPA after my first year of college, have gotten As in all of my pre-med classes so far, and have already started research. I've been wanting to be a doctor for a while now (since around middle school), but ever since this summer started, I have been experiencing MAJOR feelings of doubt.

I think a lot of this doubt comes from the fear of selling my life away during medical school and residency. I've been reading posts on posts about people's experiences in medicine and just seeing how busy and unhappy some people are makes me SO SCARED. On the other hand though, the people who so seem happy are people who live and breathe medicine. While I do find medicine interesting, I don't think it's to the extent of some other people, which worries me.

I am also a HUGE people person (I REALLY need time with my family and friends) and the idea of not being able to spend enough time with them really freaks me out. I've always been a hard worker and have put time and effort into my studies, but my priority is definitely my friends and family and I think this will always remain a priority for me. I don't know if I'm willing to totally sacrifice a life outside of medicine in order to become a doctor. I know delayed gratification is a huge idea in medicine, but I just don't know if I can delay my gratification for that long.

Also, one of my top specialties at the moment is dermatology... which I know is A LOT OF HARD WORK and basically impossible to match into. I do have other specialties that I am interested in, which gives me some comfort.

Another thing is that I love doing dissections and am okay with blood. But, because I am so emotional, I don't think I can pursue a specialty dealing with a lot of life or death situations (so most likely ruling out surgery, emergency medicine, oncology, etc.). Honestly, I don't know how relevant this point is (since I know there are many specialties that don't deal with life and death situations), but I thought I would mention it anyway in case anyone found it something to be of issue.

Overall, I am terribly confused. The idea of becoming a doctor is so appealing to me. I love helping people (I know that this is a typical answer don't attack me), I love science (especially biology and specifically anatomy), I obviously am very attracted to the lifestyle of physicians, I am a naturally curious person, I like communicating with people, and I have always been the person who attempts to diagnose my friends when they have any sort of issues. I honestly cannot imagine myself having any other career. However, I am just so scared of so many things attached to the road of becoming a doctor. I really don't know if I am cut out for it. So, please help!! Give me any advice you may have!

Tl;dr: I am very interested in becoming a doctor, but don't know if I'm cut out for it. Please help!

The path to medicine takes an incredible amount of sacrifice, especially as it applies to your social life. You will not have a lot of time for family and friends until you’re out of residency. I commend you for developing this insight and asking these questions early on in your process. If you knew you’d go for weeks and even months on end where you can’t really make social plans, would that be a deal breaker?

You say you can’t imagine having any other career, but I don’t see what steps you’ve taken to explore what medicine entails. You need to start shadowing physicians ASAP, and ensure you shadow primary care docs in addition to specialists. Could you be happy in family medicine or pediatrics if derm ends up being out of your reach? Would the sacrifices be worth it?

You can have a fulfilling career in which you use you use science/clinical skills to help others, it doesn’t have to be medicine. Explore other careers (PT, nursing, etc.) and see if medicine still calls you.
 
May 5, 2019
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The Med student forums are for current medical students to discuss issues relevant to their med school, not an AMA for Med students. Thus I’m moving this to pre-med.

As goro said, shadow and volunteer. You’re early enough that you have plenty of time to decide on another path if that’s what you want. I actually encourage pre meds to take a year or two after college to get more real world experience to 1) make sure medicine is really what they want, and 2) strengthen your application with ECs when you’re out of college and thus allow you to focus on your grades, which is the most important thing along withcthe MCAT.

Hello! I just finished my first year as an undergrad pre-med student and for some reason am suddenly starting to have doubts about doing medicine.

....

Overall, I am terribly confused. The idea of becoming a doctor is so appealing to me. I love helping people (I know that this is a typical answer don't attack me), I love science (especially biology and specifically anatomy), I obviously am very attracted to the lifestyle of physicians, I am a naturally curious person, I like communicating with people, and I have always been the person who attempts to diagnose my friends when they have any sort of issues. I honestly cannot imagine myself having any other career. However, I am just so scared of so many things attached to the road of becoming a doctor. I really don't know if I am cut out for it. So, please help!! Give me any advice you may have!

Tl;dr: I am very interested in becoming a doctor, but don't know if I'm cut out for it. Please help!

There are people who have no doubt that they love medicine. But if you ave doubt, go experience the world before committing. You really do not know what you really love if you have never experienced it.

(I just saw this guy on YouTube. He quit plastic surgery residency to do business. I think that is a lot time and effort for him to get there and quit,

)
 
Jun 24, 2019
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The path to medicine takes an incredible amount of sacrifice, especially as it applies to your social life. You will not have a lot of time for family and friends until you’re out of residency. I commend you for developing this insight and asking these questions early on in your process. If you knew you’d go for weeks and even months on end where you can’t really make social plans, would that be a deal breaker?

You say you can’t imagine having any other career, but I don’t see what steps you’ve taken to explore what medicine entails. You need to start shadowing physicians ASAP, and ensure you shadow primary care docs in addition to specialists. Could you be happy in family medicine or pediatrics if derm ends up being out of your reach? Would the sacrifices be worth it?

You can have a fulfilling career in which you use you use science/clinical skills to help others, it doesn’t have to be medicine. Explore other careers (PT, nursing, etc.) and see if medicine still calls you.


Thank you so much for your response! I have shadowed physicians in high school and plan on continuing to do so in undergrad in order to keep getting a good idea of if this is still something I would like to pursue and sacrifice a lot for. It's funny that you mention pediatrics though since it is actually one of my top specialties as well! I will definitely take your advice into account.
 
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Jun 24, 2019
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Start volunteering with patients and shadow some doctors.
I actually should have mentioned this in the post, but unfortunately, I am having these doubts after having a couple shadowing as well as volunteering experiences. However, I will continue to do these things in order to get a better idea of what I truly want. Thank you for your response!
 
Jun 24, 2019
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Based on the organization of your post & your username it seems like you are having very normal thoughts for a first-year undergraduate. In fact, I think you have done some good initial self-analysis.

Continue to explore your thoughts on medicine throughout the next few years as you progress. Getting involved in the medical field in some way will facilitate the distillation of your thoughts on the field & your potential membership in it. There is little pressure right now in life, so just focus on doing well in school and exploring.

I worked in the biotech industry for a year after college. In that one year I met a lot of underpaid, overworked people who have just as many problems with their lives as medical students, residents, and physicians.

There is no escaping the fact that (short of winning the lottery or being born into wealth) life isn't going to be a joyride. However, with the right perspectives and always having a path forward will make any walk of life more pleasant.

Take care.

This was extremely helpful and nice to hear. Thank you so much for your response! I will keep your words in mind.
 

JanetSnakehole

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Thank you so much for your response! I have shadowed physicians in high school and plan on continuing to do so in undergrad in order to keep getting a good idea of if this is still something I would like to pursue and sacrifice a lot for. It's funny that you mention pediatrics though since it is actually one of my top specialties as well! I will definitely take your advice into account.

Glad to hear you’re doing your research and keeping an open mind.

Good luck to you in whatever you decide to do. I know many premeds who didn’t ask themselves these hard questions early enough, and got burned for it after wasting lots of money and time. You are being smart and cautious which bodes well for success in whatever career path you choose.
 
Mar 29, 2019
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If it makes you feel better, I applied to MD/PhD programs this cycle. Now I am applying to just PhD this fall because I don't think that I want a career centered around patient care. It's never too late to change your mind. But if you feel if its the right path for you right now, then continue on.
 
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