When we are young (or even old) we constantly get prodded about what we are going to do with our lives. This can revolve around a variety of things, but generally highlights work. Our exposures growing up, like the occupations of friends and family, or outside sources, like books, TV shows, and movies, play a big role in driving our thought process. What you are left with is often an inkling of wishing to do one thing or another. The next step though is exploring that inkling through reflection. Since you yourself are not immersed in the field, this can be hard to do. That is where I come in. This blog piece will help you tease out the finer points of that inkling floating around in your mind. In short, it will detail the right, as well as the wrong, reasons to contemplate medicine. Notice I said contemplate, not explore. After reflection, the next step is exploration, as in job shadowing. We will save that for another blog piece though.
Do You Like to Care For Others?
This one is kindof obvious, but honestly the most important thing to consider about medicine. This is my favorite thing about the field. Unfortunately, I am not on the wards yet, and still buried under the second year of basic sciences, but my time will come. Within medicine, you get to care for people’s needs in an incredibly special way. They come to you as a vulnerable stranger and you form an unparalleled bond as you heal them. This healing is not only physical, but also emotional. The emotional aspect involves all the qualities you can dream up in a physician loved by his or her patients. Perhaps the most revered are patience and compassion. If you make your patient feel like they have your undivided attention and your empathy is palpable, that will make a huge impact. Without being in a health care occupation, you may think this is difficult to assess, but just ask yourself if you get warm fuzzies and satisfaction from helping people, no matter the task.
Does Science Intrigue You?
This may be another straightforward thing to ask yourself, but you would be surprised how many people don’t love the subject matter that underpins their job. Science is a broad term, so we should narrow it down to biology. You are dealing with the human body, so it is largely biology. The premed course work includes heavy doses of chemistry and physics because those concepts matter too, but biology is still the mainstay. You are going to be devoting two hard core years to this in medical school, but further learning thereafter will require you continue researching evolving elements of the field. So, do you like science? If so, then you are in the right place!
Do You Love Challenges?
The challenges are really never ending along this pathway. Depending on your outlook, this may be a positive or negative. If you wish to pursue medicine though, you generally want to have a positive spin on them. There are challenges set forth by others, like getting into medical school, the barrage of tests, including licensing examinations, and securing a desired residency. Then, there are the challenges you hopefully set for yourself. For instance, residency options don’t just fall into your lap. You need to build a worthy resume. Then, as a practicing clinician, there will be endless challenges. The large majority of these will be clinical, such as a presentation that is hard to diagnosis, but they could be emotional as well. Say you lose a beloved patient. Beyond that, there is the administrative side of medicine to conquer. So, are you an optimist who can face all of these various facets head on with a smile?
Do You Enjoy Comradery?
Given the delicate nature of medicine, which is compassionately caring for physical and emotional needs of patients, it comes as no surprise that a special comradery develops. Everyday at work, you are hustling alongside your colleagues to truly make an impact. There is certainly comradery in other fields, but I would argue (obviously I am bias haha) that medicine tops these given the demands, but also the potential for making your mark in the lives of your fellow human beings.
Do You Like Things That Are Dynamic?
Medicine is the epitome of dynamic. The field is continually evolving. If you ask any currently practicing physician if what they are doing now is different than what they did when they were in residency, you will be greeted with a resounding YES!!! This means there is the opportunity to keep abreast of new medications, procedures, and treatment algorithms. Honestly, as a physician, you will never be bored. No two days will be the same. No two patients will be the same. You can even contribute to this evolution through your own research. So, are you dynamic?
Do Not Pursue Medicine for X, Y, or Z
Now that we have covered why you should pursue medicine, it is also important to highlight some of the fallacies. First, do not pursue medicine strictly for financial gain. Note, I said strictly. Within medicine, you will pay off your debt (unless it is truly unmanageable or you are not disciplined) and enjoy a nice lifestyle. That being said, there is a very, very steep opportunity cost to pursuing medicine. It is not uncommon for a medical student graduate to have near $300k in debt (not counting any undergrad debt). Beyond that, you are mortgaging a lot of your twenties and thirties. So, if you go into medicine strictly for the cash money, rather than the reasons above, you will likely be disappointed and suffer from burnout. Second, while you can definitely carve out a work life balance, this is not true in all fields and you will still have to work incredibly hard, both in your training and as a practicing physician. So, don’t go this route if you are looking for a super cush life. Last, desiring a strong foundation, build through years of training, is understandable, but please don’t go into medicine because you wish to be the “boss.” Below, I will touch on what differentiates medicine from other medical career paths, but basically I am trying to say there is no place for egotism or rudeness in medicine. This will not be appreciated by colleagues or patients. .
Why Pursue Medicine Over X, Y, or Z?
After reading though this I am sure you astutely noticed that my points of reflection could very well apply to and lead you down a variety of avenues in medicine. There are some special things that differentiate being a physician though. First, your pathway is much longer. At a minimum, you will spend four years in medical school and another three in residency (the shortest residencies are three years). This is just what is necessary to grasp the complex and dense material underlying medicine, as well as become adept at caring for patients. So, this may or may not be your jam. Second, as I touched on, those years involve building a very solid framework. Other careers in medicine certainly create knowledgeable professionals and add immensely to patient care, but they just don’t go as deep in their learning. This is not to say individuals cannot fill in these gaps on their own, but the usual curriculum does not cover that. Again though, this comes at the expense of years of schooling. What is more appealing to you? Last, you are privileged (or burdened depending on how you look at it), with the most amount of responsibility. As a physician, you make the final call and if things go south, your ass is on the line. Again, it is a matter of what is appealing to you in a career.
So, now you know how to take that inkling a bit deeper and do some reflecting. Perhaps medicine is for you or perhaps going another route in the medical field is what you aspire to. Both are admirable pursuits. The next step is to actually explore a career in medicine. My next blog piece will tell you how to delve into this! See ya then fam!