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Tell Me the Truth...

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by JustnCredible, May 7, 2008.

  1. JustnCredible


    May 7, 2008
    Ok, so right now I am 33 years old and have a wife and four kids. I am not averse to working and going to school or just plain working long hours. I am in my first year of college at a community college and for the last few years have been having this "burning" feeling that keeps me coming to these forums and other student doc forums to learn more and more about the "reality" behind being a student doc/doc.

    Now I realize it's not all glamour and $$$, BUT, this is not making me deviate from this chosen path. Not sure but I have seen that the actual schooling could be 8-10 years or more not including residency etc... I have looking into other areas of medicine but none have intrigued me more than Emergency Medicine. I read the thread about misconceptions of the job and this has lurched me forward about fifteen steps. That was it.

    I need any advice that I can get on "making it" and other "realities" of the specialty. Btw, I know that being in community college (second quarter) was not the best way to go, but the main thing is it got me started in the right direction of going to school. I will be transferring to a four year university but not sure if I should look at a "medical" oriented school or if a good university would be ideal... Thank you for your time and help in my new life...


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  3. EM2BE

    EM2BE Elf 7+ Year Member

    Just to let you know, we have had people at the age of 50 get into med school. You are still young. As for the rest, I have no answers. It's up to the medical school gods on whether they accept you or not.
  4. Flopotomist

    Flopotomist I love the Chicago USPS 7+ Year Member

    May 22, 2005
    Heya.. this thread will certainly be moved soon - to the non-trad thread where you will find tons of people with similar questions.

    The SDN way is for people to jump on here and say "chase you dreams, you can do anything" but before they do that.. here are my thoughts:

    1. you are looking at spending the next 12 years with no income - how will you support 4 kids?

    2. You are looking at (after undergrad) needing to spend a TON of time away from your kids - are you OK with that?

    3. You won't START making money until you are 45 years old, at which point you may have $200,000 in student loans (likely more if you need to support all those kids) and a short period working years left to pay it back.

    I would suggest analyzing what it is that draws you to these forums and determine if your desires can't be met another way. There are a lot of jobs in healthcare that require far less time to go into that have a lot of rewards.
  5. Flopotomist

    Flopotomist I love the Chicago USPS 7+ Year Member

    May 22, 2005
    EXTREMELY rare - at 32 I was one of 4 people over the age of 30 out of 140.
  6. southerndoc

    southerndoc life is good Physician Moderator Emeritus Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Jun 6, 2002
    Don't worry about making it in emergency medicine. Just concentrate on getting into medical school. "Baby steps." Seriously, most people who go into medical school wanting to do a certain specialty usually end up changing their minds. Only about 20% of people stick with their original specialty (number completely made up from my observations).

    I think there were about 10-15 people out of 65 in my class (small school I know) who were >30 years of age at graduation.

    It's more common for younger people to go to medical school because most people >30 years of age have no desire to do it. It's not unheard of for older people to go to medical school though. There was a 54 year old woman in my class, and recently there was a grandmother who graduated from the medical school my residency is affiliated with.
  7. zinjanthropus

    zinjanthropus Physician Faculty 10+ Year Member

    May 31, 2003
    1. The person who mentioned lack of income and problems supporting kids is being a bit extreme. We had multiple people in my class with families and families that started while in medical school. One single mom had twins and is doing EM with me now. Also, the income is still there - just in student loans and that accounts for your number of dependents when the cost of living is calculated. In addition, paying loans back will not be any more of a burden then it is for the rest of us.

    2. We had about 10% of our class over the age of 30 at graduation and two or three 35+. In the class above me there was a 50 year old woman (although she didn't make it through for a number of other reasons) and my friends father was 46 when he finished.

    3. As Southerndoc said, just worry about getting into medical school and go from there.

    4. Finally, you asked about where you should finish your pre-med reqs. The answer is "anywhere" - just do very very well and make sure you are doing the other necessary stuff too - shadowing, community service, leadership.
  8. Hard24Get

    Hard24Get The black sleepymed 7+ Year Member

    speaking of baby steps, you are only in your 2nd semester of college, you may not even want to go into medicine by the time you finish. I think you should look at how much money you're making now, and carefully weigh the cost/benefit of many potential careers. For example PA school is much shorter and cheaper and you could make 60K plus, giving you a career in healthcare (and even ER) with a good income without having your family sacrifice too much. Or, you might like computer science, for all we know. Not trying to discourage you per se, but what Flopotomist says is very true and I think you should carefully weigh your options.
  9. tegs15

    tegs15 Member 10+ Year Member

    May 2, 2004
    East Coast
    These are good points. As a 32yr old M2 expecting our 5th child let me share my 2 cents.

    1. Every schools financial aid system works differently. At my school I DON"T get any additional monies for dependents! My wife doesn't work out side of the home and we are expected to live on the same loan amounts as a single student. We accomplish this daunting task in two major ways; 1. We use our states resources! (I know this fact will prompt all sorts of comments, oh well) Loans don't count as income so in our state we qualify for many programs, such as food stamps. 2. I am lucky to own a very small business back home, down side is I have to fly back 6-7 times a year to maintain it, ya it's been fun balancing that with my studies and test.

    2. You WILL spend a lot of time away from your family! I'm pleased when I can put my kids to bed 2-3 nights a week, but this requires me to be at school studying by 6 am and hope to be home by 8pm, only works half the time. And is especially difficult <5days b/f a test. My wife and I have had to struggle to maintain our relationship (seriously!), it takes a toll and requires BOTH partners to be really accommodating. Your wife MUST want you to become a physician as much as you do...she is going to be sacrificing just as much as you are!

    3. I expect to start practicing at age 37 and will have ~400k in debt (good ol' compound interest), it is doable, I just won't be driving any Hummers any time soon. So you could be as young as 43 when you start practicing, thats a good 25yrs of earning potential, it is certainly something you can make work. You just have to put in context and realize that unlike the 28-30yr old attending, you will never have as much disposable income. (Don't forget there is always the military option to cover your debt, you can get an exception for your age)

    Finally, it would be wise to take Flopotomist's suggestion and really examine all career avenues in the medical field. I'm sure you've heard this many times already, but as a PA you would certainly be cash flow positive sooner. Good luck and stay positive.
  10. 177983


    Dec 2, 2007
    Central VA
    I would once again echo what others have said about thinking about other sorts of health care careers as well as med school. A physician assistant (the "PA" others have referred to) can do a lot of what a doctor can with only two years of post-college school. Salaries start at ~$55K with it being a bit higher for EM work (~$65K, I think). Plus I think there's real room for improved independence and salary as you gain experience and docs know that you know what you're doing.

    On the other hand, being a doctor is something you just maybe want to be. If so, start shadowing doctors and volunteering to prove to med schools that's true (and this might help you prove it to yourself as well). Study hard, take out loans, live frugally and go for it.
  11. iridesingltrack

    iridesingltrack 5+ Year Member

    Dec 28, 2007
    All important points for you to consider. I was a non-trad student in my medical school and while graduating at only 31, I am among the top 5-6 oldest students in my class of 113. The eldest is 41; so, yes it can be done. But, as Hard24Get posted, you still have approx 4 years of undergrad to complete. As you know, so much can happen in 4 years. Finish college, major in what interests you, do very well, then if you find you still want to go to medical school apply and see what happens.

    You may find PA school a great option in terms of sooner return to positive cash flow-a relative of mine started PA school after I started medical school, and now has a job making well over the 60k/yr stated above and more importantly loves what she is doing.

    The odds are definitely stacked against you. But, others have done it before you, so the task is possible. The challenges you will face are significant and I'd imagine that a supportive spouse/partner/family are paramount to your success. My wife has been vital to my success.

    Good luck and keep us posted.
  12. anothertbmember

    anothertbmember Senioritis sufferer 5+ Year Member

    Jan 24, 2005
    to the OP

    My advice is pretty much what others have already stated. Weigh your options and think about what your motivation is. Wanting to do something is not necessarily enough.

    example- Let's say I want to be a professional musician. Why? Well, I love what they do. They entertain people and people recognize and respect what they do. Qualifications- I've played some guitar hero, and I like listening to music...a lot! Oh yeah, I'm married, own a house, have a child, and need to provide for them, and the only way I can learn the instrument I want to play is to in large part abandon gainful employment for the next 8 years. This would be similar in practicality to your situation only if you removed the possibility of playing for a local bar band and could only sign with major labels.

    I'm not saying it can't be done, but the odds are against you, your personal situation makes the path to be a doc even more difficult, and you currently have no real clue what sacrifices it takes to reach your goal. You can do it, but it will be challenging (understatement), and a strain on your family.

    My dad was a non-traditional student, and I held a lot of animosity towards him for not being there. Keep that aspect in mind also.
  13. EvoDevo

    EvoDevo Forging a Different Path Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jun 5, 2003
    Crazy Town
    Moving to the Non-Trad forum. Thanks to the EM folks for the thoughtful and on-topic posts.
  14. Baditude

    Baditude Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Aug 5, 2003
    I am a M3 and 38 so don't let anyone tell you it can't be done! I have 2 kids and my husband and I have worked hard to keep their lives as normal as possible. I will have 400k+ in debt when I am done but we didn't use any state aid for help either along the way. I figure I will have 20+ years to pay it back and put away for retirement so I have enough time to enjoy my 2nd career without short changing my family or myself.
    Work hard, get good grades, and just work your way through each step as it comes. You can do this if you are dedicated to it.
  15. EMTB2MD

    EMTB2MD New Member 10+ Year Member

    Aug 22, 2006

    Follow your heart! If you want it bad enough you will figure out a way to make it happen. I'm the same age and going for it as well. I can think of a million reasons why NOT to do it except the reason TO do it is much more compelling. 'If you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life'. Make sure your wife is 100% on board with the idea NOW! If she is not in the medical field I strongly recommend HER reading some books on residency and the life of doctors. Once she is completely on board then it is up to you. Go for it!

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