Pondering medical school

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    I am a 29-year-old, newly married woman who has been employed as a Physician Assistant for the last 2 years. I work in an emergency department, overall enjoy my job, but have been feeling that tug to take my medical skills to the next level and return to medical school.
    This is a really difficult conflict within myself, because I originally went to PA school (instead of medical school) because I wanted to have a life outside of medicine. I wanted to stay married to whoever I married (now I am married) and have children that I raised. But now, the dissatisfaction of being almost, but not-quite a physician is pulling at me.
    I love my husband dearly and I’ve talked to him about my thoughts, and he is supportive of my pursuing medical school. I do NOT want to ruin my marriage and I don’t want to delay childbearing much longer (concerns about fertility being 29). I also am still paying off my student loans from PA school because I went to an excellent but private (read:costly) PA program.
    Am I crazy to even consider going back to medical school? – am I going to destroy my marriage?, destroy my dreams of motherhood?, put me and my husband in a financial abyss??? I personally think I could survive the medical school aspect without a problem. BUT, I think residency would monopolize my every waking hour and be the one thing that could squash even my best of intentions.
    Please advise! I’d like to hear from women who have been in similar experiences and made the plunge into med school. Are you still married? If you are, did medical school or residency ruin your relationship with your husband? Are you a stranger to your children? Do you regret your decision? What would you have done differently?
    Thanks for your input,



    Unfortunately I can’t help you with your questions about residency, but I found your post very interesting because (I think) you are the first PA who has posted stating a desire to become an MD. I had wondered whether the role of a PA might leave one feeling “not quite enough”. I have been struggling with the decision to go the PA route for the reasons you stated–More time with husband and kids, less job stress, etc, but had an inkling that I would eventually feel as if it weren’t quite enough. Anyway, that’s a decision only I can make, and if I decide to settle for the sake of my family I will just have to convince myself that it was the best decision. As a mom I can tell you that while professional satisfaction is very important, there is nothing like coming home to happy little faces 🙂

    Good luck with your decision~



    Hi Val,

    Overall, I think being a PA is a great career choice. I work in a setting with very supportive physicians and generally have the freedom to see whatever rolls through the door.
    My background prior to PA school was in EMS (I’m still a licensed paramedic.). But, when someone is coming in with cardiac arrest, they deserve and get the doctor. My physician colleagues know about my ACLS abilities, so they’ve brought me on on a handful of codes to intubate or place a chest tube or start a central line…..but it’s only a handful of times. My job (and I agree that this is my role) is to keep the rest of the department going while they’re occupied with the critical patients. But, as I pick up that chart for the “back pain, requesting Percocet refill” patient, I yearn to be in with the critical patient making a difference.
    The other time I feel a tug for the advanced training of physician residency is when I pick up a chart for a patient that is extremely complex – with multiple co-morbid conditions, a long list of medicines all with their own physiologic effects, a patient who is unable to provide an adequate history, and they are presenting with some “could-be-anything” complaint. I require a lot more guidances from the physician for these patients, and I wish at times I could “figure it out” on my own.
    But, I also realize that the setting I am in is unique because of my freedom to pick up that complex, “could-be-anything” patient. A lot of ER settings only let their PA’s see the sore throats and stubbed toes *yawn*. On the other hand, to be seeing all ranges of complexities and to have so much autonomy/responsibility….and know that your pay is 1/4 of the doc’s, you’re always explaining your role to patients (well, if you’re female they assume you’re a nurse anyway), and no one seems to know where exactly your profession falls. “Honey, you’re going to make a great doctor” is the ‘compliment’ I receive all the time….sometimes I explain to them my role all over again….and other times I just say. “Oh, thank you.” 😀

    As a post-script, my husband and I talked some more and I told him, “I know what the answer is, but I just need to accept it.” For me, I think returning to medical school at this point in my life would require a sacrifice that I really can not or would not want to make. I remember when I made the decision to pursue PA school instead of medical school and I told myself that I would appreciate the advantages and rewards 10 years from then. I think once we start having a family, I’ll see clearly that having time for to experience my family fully is worth giving up that role in the ER spotlight. Time to rejoice in the smaller ER victories!


    Well, Meesh and Val, I know exactly where you are coming from!!!! I’m in the middle of that debate at this very moment.

    I recently discovered that in Pedi. practice, PA’s and NP’s often serve the exact same function as the MD, but without the extra long hours, admin responsibilities, or insurance woes. Sounds pretty good to me! Especially since I have a husband and 3 kids.

    But, but, but, will it be enough for me? Or will I be in your spot, Meesh, in 5 years? I’m very driven personally, and I worry that being a PA won’t be enough, professionally. I want to know everything the MD’s know and be able to make the choices and decisions for myself.

    I’ll let you know if I get a revelation on these questions! :goodvibes:

    Keri QKeri Q

    I have debated the PA vs. MD question extensively myself. I think people who are happy being PA’s are those who always wanted to be a PA, or who thought they would be a nurse, and then decided to go a step further and push themselves to be a PA. People who want to be MD’s and become PA’s instead feel that they have settled.
    I have never wanted to be anything but an MD and I would not be happy as a PA, but I have several friends who are very happy being PA’s because that’s what they wanted to do.
    As far as getting too old to have children–I have faced this issue too. I will be pushing 45 before I am ready to start a family. My husband and I have decided to adopt children when we are ready. I know this is not an option that most people want, but it works for us.

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