Want to be a doctor- but worry I can't do it/not smart/feeling overwhelmed

posted 1 year ago in College
Post # 62
12 posts

SithLady :   anabee323 :   notmeeither :  I was the one who suggested that OP declare a major in which she can maintain a high GPA (not necessarily a science major) and to spread out her prerequisites as much as possible and/or as much as is necessary for her. I am saying this out of my own experiences, and I think that OP is best served by gradually building up her confidence.

Also, I fully admit that I am not a medical student, but I am a master’s student in a “top” SMP program. This is a special master’s program where you take 1st year medical school courses with medical students and are graded on their curve so that you can prove to medical schools that you can actually do medical school. This is a last resort option that people take when they have horrible undergrad grades that do not show their true potential. My GPA in my master’s has been ~3.9, and as you can imagine I have outperformed the average medical student and there is absolutely no grade inflation. So I personally feel like I know some of what I am talking about re: difficulty of medical school classes at the medical school where I am doing my master’s.

I honestly think that you do not need to have a science major to do well in medical school. Will it help? Sure it can if you can do well, but honestly the way that 1st year of medical school is taught is very different from the undergrad classes as well. There is more breadth and less depth if that makes any sense. It’s like swimming in a shallow ocean. I have classmates who were engineers (not biomed or chem engineering) and lots of classmates who were humanities or psych majors. Many of the people I am talking about have done very well in my program–even better than I did. I fully believe that being a hard science major is not necessary, and really the only preparation you need for the MCAT and medical school are the introductory science classes that are tested on the MCAT exam (introduction to biology, introduction to chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry…and intro to psych + intro to sociology). Doing well in upper level biology classes can certainly help, but it’s not absolutely necessary and I don’t feel the need to scare OP into thinking that she must do a STEM major to make it into medical school or to succeed in the coursework. It’s not true. 

Notmeeither, you must have had classmates who weren’t science majors. In fact, if you look at the statistics from the AAMC, you can see that while biology and other science majors are the most represented in the medical school applicant pool, they do not have a higher chance of being accepted when compared to people who pursued other majors and who have a solid GPA and MCAT score. Of course, every specific medical school and every individual admissions officer are looking for different things, but overall there is no advantage to having a biology major or disadvantage to not having a science major in the medical school admissions process.

According to the AAMC, it’s also not like applicants who majored in humanities or social sciences underperform on the MCAT overall compared to science majors: https://www.aamc.org/download/321496/data/factstablea17.pdf

So my advice to OP is pretty solid, in my opinion. I think she should choose a major she is interested in and can do well in. She should aim to keep her overall and science GPAs as high as possible. In order to help her adjust and build confidence, she should start by taking one science class per semester and see how it goes. If she can handle that with ease for a semester or two, she can then think about doing two science classes per semester. Doing well and having a solid science and overall GPA is extremely important to be considered for admissions. Taking the time to do well in the prerequisite classes and learn the material thoroughly will help her retain the information better when she goes to study for the MCAT too.

In reflecting on my mistakes as an undergraduate, I wish I had pursued a plan like this. I didn’t do well in college to begin with and then crammed my schedule with science classes but also didn’t do well in them. If I had started building my confidence gradually and deliberately, I have no doubt that I would have done a whole hell of a lot better. And yes, part of the reason I am suggesting this is because OP has specifically stated that she is insecure in her ability and feeling overwhelmed.

Other reasons that non-science majors can be useful:

-Can help you stand out and be more interesting in the applicant pool because it allows you to express various interests. This is a tiny point, but it is one I have heard a medical school admissions officer mention.

-Can provide a back up plan. I’m not saying that biology is a bad major by any means, but to actually advance and have a career in biology for the most part you are looking at getting more education down the line (master’s, PhD, etc.). Other than getting a research assistant job, a biology major isn’t particularly useful in the career world. Now I’m not saying that a humanities major is super helpful either, but there are majors that can be more “useful” in the real world.

For example, one of my undergraduate friends who is now a resident physician did a clinical psychology bachelor’s degree. If he didn’t get into medical school, he was planning on counseling for a bit (there are jobs that will allow you to do this with a bachelor’s) to determine whether to pursue either a counseling master’s or PhD. His major would have set him up to go into a completely different career path if he decided that medicine wasn’t for him. Maybe that isn’t the best example, but eh it’s the one I thought of.

Post # 63
1030 posts
Bumble bee

blueberrycupcake28 :  “My understanding is that you can’t transfer to a UC as an undeclared major, and you are unable to change your major after transferring.”

I see now why you feel like you have to pick a direction and feel a bit of high pressure and confusion about which direction to turn to.  No wonder you feel overwhelmed and conflicted.

Do you think self-guided teaching to CLEP would be an option for you? What kind of classes have you enjoyed the most?  What about jobs you have had so far that you have enjoyed?  Do you think you can make a list of three or four potential academic tracks you could pursue with the breakdown of years invested in CC+UC, and spend this summer independently calling around to find volunteer/internship positions?  You might be able to find several places that list internships for credit at other universities and ask if they would be willing to offer you a not-for-credit, unaffiliated internship so that you can work in different areas of interest in one or two different fields.  That way, once the fall semester starts, you’ll have a little better of an idea of “yes, I love this, this is my passion” or “it turns out, I really love ___!”  We all go through a time trying to find the right path for ourselves.  It is hard to try to make those decisions and explore what you want while you feel like you have to pay for every hour and every class while in school,  but don’t be hard on yourself or think you aren’t “smart enough.”  Don’t let doubt or negativity stop you from what you think you might really love.

 Reading some of these other comments and success stories, I think I’m being too harsh with you because of my own personal experience.  I don’t want to discourage you.  There are some great ideas on this thread for how to work in general requirements for “pre-med.”  Don’t let yourself feel down for not instinctively knowing your direction. You have a whole world of great possibilities ahead of you, and that path can be to medicine if you lay down a plan and find that it is your passion.

Post # 65
1030 posts
Bumble bee

anonymousbee63 :  Again, accurate words.  While you were commenting, I was typing a retraction of my thought process after listening to others mentioning alternative paths. I went on to say that my point of view was myopic and not helpful in this situation because I think you are right, and I believe that I was no longer being helpful.  I appreciate you spelling out some of those other paths so that it can encourage the Bee who started this thread to understand that she doesn’t have to overburden herself or meet unnecessary goals, and it also helped ground me in recognizing those other experiences.  While there were only a relatively small percent of alternative degree students in my program, that absolutely does not reflect on the vast number of other medical programs in the US. I was also coming from exactly the mindset that you described and that so many others get caught up in of having to push – potentially to a detriment. That will not help this Bee, so I need to adjust my mindset.

Post # 66
375 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: March 2019

Everyone here is focusing on how to get into medical school, which is certainly an important piece of the puzzle! And I think it’s been covered very well but a lot of the posters what all needs to be done in order to get there. But, especially since there are so many years of pre-reqs to go before blueberrycupcake28  is able to even consider applying to med school, I think it’s really, really, really a worthwhile endeavour to make sure that this is truly the path you want to embark on.

You said you’ve enjoyed volunteering in a soup kitchen/free clinic. That’s great! But that really is not a similar experience at all as to what  being a doctor is like most ofo the time. I highly recommend 1) volunteering inside a hospital; 2) shadowing a variety of doctors in different specialties; and 3) working a clinical job. I actually don’t think working as a CNA or MA are the best ways to get exposure to medicine, and I would instead HIGHLY encourage you to look into scribe jobs. You don’t need a license or certificate or degree in order to be qualified, so you wouldn’t have to spend extra time and classes obtaining something like that. Also, and most importantly IMO, you get to see what the doctors are doing in the hospital. Scribes go with doctors into patient rooms, watch the interview and physical exam, document everything that’s being said and examined, follow up on labs and imaging results, write down the treatment being administered, discuss the differential diagnosis and treatment plan (which allows you to ask why each thing is being done and develop an understanding for the thought process behind clinical encounters), and document the outcome. My scribing experience has helped me immensely throughout medical school, and it gave me a much clearer idea of what it is that doctors actually do. 

Some of the scribes in my program decided that medicine wasn’t right for them after all, and that’s after completing their undergraduate degrees fully intending to apply to medical school. They are now much happier as pharmacists and physical therapists, and wouldn’t have known that without scribing experience.

By The Way, I’m going into pediatrics — I know that was something you mentioned being interested in, so if you have questions about that aspect of it also, let me know!

Post # 67
746 posts
Busy bee

blueberrycupcake28 :  As a nurse, I work with CNAs and would like to affirm that CNAs can certainly have the flexibility to work part-time, nights, and/or weekends. If you get your CNA certificate, you can also work as a Home Health Aide, which involves home visits and you can also do part-time. 

If part-time MA jobs are hard to find, I’d encourage you to just go for your CNA. Like I said in a previous post, nursing tends to be an incremental career (ex. people work while attaining the next step of their nursing career), so it is not surprising that there are more part-time positions for CNAs. And if you work as a CNA and tell your work that you are going to school while working, they should be more familiar with that situation and accomodating to any necessary changes in your schedule.

The time and money invested in getting a CNA certificate will be less than getting a medical assistant certificate as well, so you’ll start working as a CNA sooner and can move onto your other goals sooner. You should be able to get your CNA training completed in a month if you are in a full-time program that meets every day, and a couple of months if you are in a part-time program. 

And if you have aversion to body fluids, being a CNA will desensitize you to various fluids because what you are doing is helping patients with activities of daily living (i.e. eating, showering, going to the bathroom, walking, etc.). You will be interacting with, on average, sicker patients than the ones you would see in a typical doctor’s office, whether you work in a nursing home, rehab center, or a hospital as a CNA or whether you do home visits as a HHA. Being a CNA can also allow you to have experience with special populations (i.e. residents who suffer from dementia are commonly in nursing homes, patients who are recovering from major surgery are in rehab centers).

One other reason I think CNA could be useful for you: exposure to body fluids. I used to have an aversion to stool and was embarrassed/nervous about genitalia before I started working in nursing. I finished a CNA certificate and worked part-time for a year while getting my LPN, and the experience took any fear and nerves regarding dealing with fluids or genitalia out of me. 

Post # 68
12 posts

nalastardust :  I’m currently a scribe at a specialized clinic in a teaching hospital, and my experience has been good overall but I wouldn’t call it great. The job is fine and I love the clinic, but in the end it’s a secretarial job. After working for several months, I don’t feel that I am learning all that much. And  as we have a lot of patients to get through each day (30-50 patients in a day depending on the doctor I am working with) and there really isn’t time to ask questions–I just write/summarize the patient encounter. When we have downtime in the clinic, I am catching up on notes. In my opinion, it’s not significantly better than my previous shadowing experience. In fact, I felt that doctors paid more attention to me while shadowing and were more amenable to answering questions. I’m not trying to sound ungrateful, I do appreciate the job, but it’s not as amazing as scribes and the scribe company tried to sell it to me as (which I figured out by doing my own research, so this wasn’t a surprise to me at all). Personally, I much prefer the jobs where I’m interacting with patients, and am planning to moving into a more patient-interactive clinical job in a couple of months.

The worst part of scribing is the minimum wage pay and the irregular hours. My pre-med friends who are working as MAs or CNAs are making more than I am with more regular hours. My schedule is tied to the doctor’s, so if they decide to take time off to go to a conference or vacation then I’m off and don’t get paid. With my scribing being in an academic hospital that is nationally well-known in the department I work in, you can imagine that there have been weeks in the past and that there will be weeks in the future that the doctors are taking off for conferences, vacation, etc. Those are days I don’t work and I have not been offered any extra shifts to work on those weeks.

I did mention scribing as a good premed job in my previous posts, but IMO this tends to be a transient job. I work for the biggest scribing company and the scribes at my hospital tend to stay for 10 months on average before moving on to a different opportunity. Yes, part of that is because scribes tend to be students, but I think it says a lot that there is so much turnover within the company. I like the doctors I work with and I love and appreciate being in the clinic, but I would caution people looking into scribing (or really any job) to fully educate themselves on what they are getting themselves into. I knew going into scribing that I was planning on learning as much as I could and leaving after a year if the minimum wage wasn’t worth it. While the experience in the clinic has been good has been good, I would only recommend scribing to someone who doesn’t need to earn a certain amount of $ per month. If you are fine with working a minimum wage job and you will be fine if your doctor takes off for a week or two here or there, then it’s totally fine and might be a good learning experience if you don’t have any background in medicine. It’s not a terrible job or anything, but IMO it’s also not as incredible as some people seem to think/advocate. Your experience may vary, of course.

Post # 71
12 posts

blueberrycupcake28 :  I understand that you want to choose a path because you don’t wan to waste time…believe me I understand that feeling. But the worst thing about rushing to choose path is if you rush and pick the wrong choice, and then you have to restart later on.

One more idea for you: You can take the initiative and try to get shadowing experience on your own. Try calling or emailing a whole bunch of physicians (get their email addresses from hospital websites) and tell them that you are a pre-medical student who is interested in their specialty and is wondering whether they might have the opportunity to shadow. Make a form email and send it to as many doctors as you can. You may have to call/email many doctors, but chances are that someone will respond positively. Anecdotally, I have found that DO physicians may be more likely to allow students to shadow than MD physicians. If/when you get a family doctor, ask them if you can shadow them. 

Some people have used this website to cold call/contact DOs: https://doctorsthatdo.org/

You can also email or cold call dental clinics. Say that you are a pre-dental student who would like to inquire about shadowing opportunities. Shadowing is very important in dentistry as well, and there is no harm in asking. The worst thing they can say is no, but if you contact enough people I’m sure you can find someone who will allow you to shadow for a day or two. Also, if you have a dentist, you can ask your own dentist whether they would mind if you shadowed them. If they say no, ask if they know any other dentist who would allow you to shadow–then name drop your connection when you contact that person.

Likewise, you can contact physical therapy or occupational therapy clinics, tell them you are considering going into their fields, and ask if you can shadow. The worst thing they can do is say no. You have nothing to lose.

And once you get more clinical connections, and if you get a clinical job for example, you will make connections to be able to ask people to shadow. You’ll get to where you want to be if you keep going.

Post # 74
207 posts
Helper bee

blueberrycupcake28 :  Good point about defining decade, it does spend a good deal discussing relationships. The book Mindset is awesome awesome awesome and goes hand in hand with Grit! 

The Power of Full Engagement – I have not read this one yet but my SO who just finished his DPT said it changed his whole outlook on academics.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell – One of my favorites!! Great perspective that is open for interpretation related to the situations in your own life. 

As far as the debt to income ratio I don’t know much bc I was following my heart more so than my wallet. I’ll keep you updated on how that works out for me hahaha but in all seriousness there is really great job security and growth opportunities in the field right now because baby boomers are creating a high demand for PTs.

Feel free to PM me with any questions! Either way, good luck on your journey! 

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