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

posted 1 year ago in College
Post # 75
439 posts
Helper bee

Current MD student. I actually hesitated replying because no one likes shooting down another person’s hopes and dreams but you said you’re in need of proper advice so here’s proper advice.

1) Don’t double down on that medical degree until you’ve done at least a biology class at college, an O-chem class at college and a biochemistry class. Also, look into taking some anatomy classes in university before you decide medicine is definitely for you. You need to complete some of the core courses before you even consider medicine, English and Art history is great and all but it’s nothing like the biosciences. And community college is nothing like medical school. Liking math and science doesn’t mean you’d do well at them, unfortunately.

2) Not being squemish is good, but has nothing to do with actually getting into medical school.

3)  I want to work with people one-on-one, have a leader role, work with my hands, diagnose and treat, help in a practical and concrete way, and be able to teach others. 

You need to realize none of that happens overnight, leadership roles, diagonsing, being able to teach – all these come about 10 years after you graduate from medical school. It’s a long path, it’s a difficult path and you need to stick with it. Dropping out after one semester at college, no matter the reason, doesn’t bode well for you either in this aspect.

4) Pre-med kids don’t spend 99% of their free time planning to be doctors, they spend it in the library, actually studying to get into medical school to become a doctor. Planning shouldn’t be taking up so much of your free time, plan once, check that plan is feasible with someone in authority (like a medical admissions officer) and then get to work. Planning so much can easily turn the planning into daydreaming

As for not knowing what you’re doing, hey, welcome to medical school. You’ll hear a lot of phrases like “Fake it till you make it”, “Learn one, do one, teach one.” and stuff like “drinking from a firehose”. If none of those things sound like stuff you can do, you might want to consider other pathways.

PS. Also, don’t announce to anyone in authority that you’re pre-med. Talk about your passion for healthcare, why you’re interested in it, what you’re doing in school to achieve your goal of med school. Anyone who expresses a little bit of interest in shadowing doctors are usually people thinking of med school which makes them all “pre-med”…being pre-med isn’t special, announcing that you’re pre-med usually gets a few eyerolls.

Post # 77
12 posts

blueberrycupcake28 :  The way that I would phrase it is something like this:

“Hi, my name is Blueberry Cupcake, and I am a student at ABC college and am considering pursuing a career in [insert field: medicine, dentistry, PT, OT, etc.]. I was wondering if it would be possible to shadow you in order to gain more insight into [insert specific field they work in: pediatrics, general dentistry, PT, etc.].”

It is an accurate representation of who you are and the fact that you are looking into things. Personally, I wouldn’t mention any other fields to any particular individual you contact. I presume that you are interested in exploring *their* chosen career, so act like you are interested in exploring their career field. They don’t need to know that you are exploring other options as well, unless it comes up, while you are shadowing them. I definitely wouldn’t advise you to lie, but I personally did not advertise that I was looking into multiple fields unless it came up (I explored medicine, dentistry, and PT), because I felt like if I’m trying to explore a specific field with a professional then I should give that person and that field my entire attention. I felt like that was the respectful thing to do, but I can also see how people could see it differently. 

Don’t think that you are wasting anyone’s time. They can always say no. And I’m sure you would agree that everyone deserves to gather insight before choosing a career path–why wouldn’t the people who are shadowing also agree with that? Once I’m a working professional, I’d like to help others figure out their path. If that means that they figure out that another field is better for them, then that’s fine. It’s not a waste of anyone’s time, things can always change and people can always change their minds. I’ve shadowed people in healthcare fields that I’m not planning on entering (ex. dentistry, physical therapy), and it was great for my learning and decision making, and at the end of the day it’s nice to have the insight so that you can also respect the professionals in those fields. No one is going to be mad at you if you don’t choose their field in the end. Just be polite, professional, be interested in the field, and thank them for the time that they took to show you something new.


Also, I totally hear you on wanting a career in which you can help people. I fully believe that everyone deserves to be in a career that they enjoy and a career that fulfills them, and you will get to that point as long as you take the time to fully explore the options available and follow your heart, work as hard as you can, and consider your strengths. Honestly, there are so many different types of careers that can make a huge impact on people. That’s a great thing–it means that you have a ton of options! It can also be kind of paralyzing in a way because there are so many options, but that’s where you have to really do some soul searching and figure out what the right fit is for you. I’m sure that your boyfriend only wants the best for you, which is why he wants you to pick a path and get there. And you sound like someone who has the end-goal mentality, which is why you want to pick a path and get there.

The thing is though, a career as a physician about isn’t built in days or months or even a few years…it takes several years of hard work just to get to the starting point, and then years of school and years of training, and finally a lifetime of refining your skills and learning new skills. It’s a career where you are going to be in school and in training for a long time. If you can’t come to terms with that and the fact that yes it’s going to take a while to get to the “finish” then you should definitely consider other careers. I’m not saying that medicine isn’t for you, all I’m saying is that the “finish line” mentality is a detriment to you if you want to pursue medicine, and if you do decide to go down the medical path then I hope that you can find fulfillment in the journey, because it is such a long journey.

And yes–definitely talk to your boyfriend about the fact that this is such a huge decision. He seems to love you very much, and I’m sure he’ll understand. No one wants to go down any path and potentially find themselves in a career that is not the best fit for them, but unable to quit because they need to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. I’m not trying to be negative, but that’s a real possibility that happens to some medical students who have not fully explored their options and done the soul searching. It’s a long road and a huge gamble if you’re not 100% sure. I’m not trying to dissuade you from the path, but what other people have been saying in the thread is true….the loans you would take out are significant and there is also a significant opportunity cost from the fact that you will spend a lot of years as a student taking on loans instead of working and then as an underpaid trainee in residency. All those years are lost years in terms of ultimate income. You’re also going to be giving up a lot of time that you could have spent with your loved ones, your hobbies, personal development, etc. I hope that that runderscores how huge a decision this is both in terms of personal and monetary cost. It’s not a decision to be made lightly, and you are doing the responsible thing by not making a hasty decision. Feel comfortable and confident in yourself. Taking the appropriate amount of time to figure out your life and career goals and also set yourself up for success in terms of taking the appropriate courses and developing your resume is the absolute right thing to do.

Post # 81
864 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: February 2019

blueberrycupcake28 :  I think the PP who said you’ve been spending too much time planning and not enough time ‘doing’ is pretty accurate so I’m glad that resonated with you and you’re taking changes to fix the balance.  Even little things can make a difference like above you say you’re planning to do the following, why not just say you’re doing those things.

I also think that, while as a society, we value follow through, there is no shame in changing your plan once you become better informed.  To me becoming a doctor isn’t just a matter of how smart you are but also so many factors.  There are plenty of people who are brilliant but know they won’t thrive in a med school/medical environment.  There’s no shame when people don’t want to take on the loans or don’t think it would be compatible with other life goals.  The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized that it doesn’t diminish who I am as a person to consider whether I’m a fit for something.

When I was in undergrad I started out as a journalism major because I thought I knew I wanted to do it.  I’d always loved creative writing for fun and was involved in my HS yearbook for 6 years.  But when I actually got to college and had classes that put journalism skills into practice it made me realize how much I did not enjoy journalism-style writing on deadline.  I’m glad I wasn’t afraid to switch my plan because instead the path I did go down (advertising) was a much better fit.  And now after 13 years I think I’ll be switching to something else because it’s time for a change.  It’s not a matter of not being smart enough, it just doesn’t fit what I want anymore.

And FWIW, there is no guarantee that any job won’t be stressful.  I know people think of communications as being an ‘easy’ major but my job has been incredibly stressful at times (to the point that even though my anxiety had previously been well managed for 10+ years my psychiatrist suggested a medical leave, which I ultimately didn’t take).  I think at some point stress is inevitable, it’s about learning to manage it and figuring out what your threshold is.


Post # 82
2216 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2019 - Chateau Lake Louise

blueberrycupcake28 :  So, I have a story pretty similar. I went to CC then transferred to a 4 year with the intention of becoming an OBGYN. I know I’m smart, and felt sure that once I made up my mind, I could do anything I wanted, if I just applied myself.

And I struggled. Tremendously. Bio was okay, chem was slightly better, but physics was brutal and I never quite got a handle on it.

Lots of people want to be doctors. Ultimately, physics and chemistry aren’t the skills you use in daily practice; you learn those things in Med School. These classes – particularly Organic Chemistry are called “weeder courses” They eliminate people who aren’t cut out for the coursework, for whatever reason. 

I am very fortunate. In my 3rd year I had a conversation with my advisor who told me that though I was unquestionably one of the most intelligent students to come through her office, I might want to think carefully about whether applying to med school was really something I wanted to persue. I had a young daughter, and she told me no single parent she knew who went to med school had any kind of relationship with their child. I decided it wasn’t for me. I have never regretted it. 

One of my very good friends became a doctor after I quit the med school track. Watching her go through it just confirmed I wasn’t cut out for the rigors of the program. I needed more sleep, I needed more out of life than just school, and I wasn’t willing to pay the toll med school would take. 

If you have the opportunity to speak to someone who is currently IN med school, I’d say talk to them. Ask them what their day to day experience is like. Then ask yourself if it’s REALLY that important to be a DOCTOR. In point of fact, NURSES do the bulk of the care of patients. They are the ones who really make the difference in the experience that shape treatment and recovery. Nursing school is hard, but it is a much more humane experience, on the whole. 

I ended up working in healthcare, in an administrative capacity. I can tell you that nurses tend to take on less student debt, and are usually financially solvent much sooner than their physician counterparts. The schooling is less brutal, and once you are practicing, there are programs that can build on an RN to become a nurse practitioner which is equivalent to a physician in many respects. 

It doesn’t make you stupid, or a bad person, to acknowledge it just isn’t the path for you. It means you value your happiness JUST AS MUCH as your ability to care for other people. Not wanting to trade your quality of life for the next 12-15 YEARS in order to have a certain title is a perfectly legitimate CHOICE. Don’t feel less than for making it, if it’s right for you. 

Post # 85
1415 posts
Bumble bee

blueberrycupcake28 :  Whether or not this is a good idea is very personal. For me, it would be a bad idea because I need to take a really long time to absorb new material. I just wouldn’t be able to work on learning and preparing for my career path and learn at a challenging/possibly career related job as well.

But I know others who are able to do this and excel because they need to be able to switch tracks during the day or week and can’t spend too long on one thing.

I think starting with a lower course load and easing into it is a good idea. That way you can see if it’s doable and up the courses if you can handle it. And even if it’s too much, you’ll probably be able to hang on for the semester and next semester you can turn in notice and focus on school without having hurt your GPA.

Post # 86
113 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: May 2018

I didn’t go to medical school and I have no input on that, but I do know what it is like to fail out of school and go back. I went to school for a year and a half, then failed out during my fourth semester. I lost a person very close to me and I didn’t deal with it well. Instead of dropping out of school to deal with my grief, I tried to continue and just couldn’t. I went back to school when I was 28. I earned my associate’s and bachelor’s while working part-time, then earned my master’s in three semesters (one over the summer) while working full-time. I earned a 4.0 through all four years when I went back. I never once questioned if what I was doing was right for me. I just knew that this is what I was going to do and I did it. I think it’s totally doable to work full-time and go to school. But it really depends on your personality. It’s okay to spend the time you are doing your gen ed stuff figuring out what you want to do. But you need to find out what you’re working towards and have the commitment to get it done. You seem very much all over the place. You don’t really know what you want to do, and I think you need to figure that out before anyone can take you seriously, including yourself. I hope you figure it out, and you get there!

Post # 89
746 posts
Busy bee

blueberrycupcake28 :  Your update is amazing. It certainly sounds like you are on the right path! It is so important to do what YOU want to do, what makes you FULFILLED, and what you LOVE!

It’s great that you are being so reflective and honest with yourself!  What you posted about just now is very common. I knew a lot of people who went to school with me who wanted to become a physician for the prestige factor. That that is one of the common reasons that some students *think* that they want to pursue human medicine. However, this is the wrong way to think about things. This is extrinsic motivation (when you want something for the rewards and benefits it will give you). The fact of the matter is that extrinsic motivation tends to be unsustainable when things get tough, which they inevitably will, and I think that this is why a lot of premeds decide on a different path that suits them better (like other posters were talking about). And if these extrinsically motivated people do make it into medicine, this is how you end up with people in a job that they don’t like and feeling burnt out (which is a huge problem in medicine). A lot of physicians will give the advice of “if you can be happy doing anything else, pursue that” for this reason. It’s good advice, since it encourages people to explore other options.

In order to pick the best career for you, you need to do exactly what you are doing, which is exploring and reflecting on what you are intrinsically motivated about.

Intrinsic motivation is about what you like to do because it is satisfying to you. Have you heard that phrase, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life?” That’s what intrinsic motivation is all about! It sounds like your interests are naturally leading you toward a career that you are intrinsically motivated toward (veterinary medicine), and that’s truly exciting! It also fits better with one of the majors that you mentioned being genuinely interested in (marine biology).

You sound like a really reflective and intelligent person. I am excited to cheer you on and see what the future has in store for you. I hope that you continue to pursue what you are truly interested in and let go of the outside factors that drive people to make bad decisions in the long run (ex. being motivated by things like prestige, money, etc–I’m not saying that those things aren’t nice, but in the long run those things aren’t going to make you happy in and of themselves, keep in mind the intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation thing).

As far as grades, personally I think if you are trying to get the highest grades possible the smartest thing to do would be to start with fewer credits and then build up one class at a time. I wouldn’t regret getting a 4.0 with fewer credits, but I would regret slipping up and getting a 3.0 with more credits (and there is no way to take that back), so I think that there is good reason to be conservative when you are building up credits.

I hope you get the kennel attendant job, and that it goes well. πŸ™‚

Anyway, wishing you all the best in your endeavors, hope you will update in the future! Best of luck!

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