Why would you want to do THAT?

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    So…..I just got off of the phone with a friend of ours. She is an internist and MomMD that recently moved away to start in a new pratice. She asked me the usual questions and then asked what I was up to. I have pretty much been a ‘closet’ premed and so this revalation came as quite a shock to her. Her immediate response?

    “WHY would you want to do THAT?” and then she went off on a litany of why she would never go to medical school if she had the chance…the reasons included that the study of medicine and the practice are two totally different things, she has no time with her patients because it is all about revenue, you have to haggle with insurance companies, etc etc…She told me that she has yet to meet a practicing physician who is happy with their choice to study medicine 😮 😮 It is true that many of the young docs that I talk to are disillusioned and aren’t really satisfied, but I’ve chalked this up to being fresh out of residency.

    She told me to study anything…just not medicine… 😮

    I’m in such shock after this phone call 😡 that I had to get online and come right over and ask for some input.



    Oh Kris,

    I am always so disillusioned when I hear this! I am so frightened of putting forth ALL the years, money, and effort only to wind up hating my job. I too would like more input from physicians, I keep hearing if they had it to do again they would NOT go into medicine. It’s so scary to me I just don’t know what to think…or say… 🙁 I guess I shouldn’t bother to post, but I wanted to sympathize.



    I love being a doctor. I have been a doctor for 15 years and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am not saying that it is not hard sometimes but the positive outweighs the negative especially if you choose a specialty you love and try to take care of yourself and have friends and hobbies along the way. Don’t get discouraged. I find mainly the internists are the most disgruntled…


    I think that some physicians that are disgruntled are those that *truly* (maybe) did not know what they were really getting into. There are many many pre-meds that I meet and talk to that really have *no* idea of the hours involved, paperwork, limited time with patients, liability issues, employers that are more interested in the bottom line, missing important events with family, etc. As long as you go into this with your eyes wide open and some more, I do not think that you will be disenchanted with the practice of medicine. We just have to be realistic and know that yes, sometimes we will miss important events, that we will work many hours (possibly 80-100 hours per week during residency), that we will have difficult attending, we will encounter discrimination for being female and oh no! being a mom, etc. But I am sure (and that is why I am pursuing this path) that the benefits will by far outweigh those difficult times that we will face.


    I just wanted to tell you an experience I had while volunteering this weekend. I sat with a lady with cancer having x-rays done for extreme pain. I just helped her climb up, pushed her wheelchair and so on. With tears in her eyes she looked at me and said “this is not an easy profession to choose but some people are just born to do this. I will never forget the kindness you have shown me”. She then went on to say how she did not want to live anymore and how much longer did she have to suffer.

    I can think of no other career that offers such one-to-one intimate interaction. These are the moments when you either know or don’t know that this is what you want to do. Isn’t this the biggest reason for “wanting to do THAT?” I think Laura Arigo said that this initial empathy gets ‘beaten’ out of you in medical school and perhaps after so long you forget what initially attracted you to the profession.

    Sorry if this is not a clear answer to what your original post was about. But I hope you get the general idea of what I’m trying to say…. 😉



    It’s not that the empathy is beaten out of us… it’s more a numbing, overexposure than anything else.

    And it is the example of our residents and our attendings that we follow and often unconsciously mimic while on the wards. They are the ones who are modeling for us what a doctor should and should not be (and do). And yes, I have had some lousy teachers in that respect, but I have also had some wonderful ones. And I will have to admit, your patience wears thin as you get less sleep. You do get a feeling sometimes of “Mr. Soandso tried to die on me again last night,” as though it was personal. And as the admits pile up through the night, and you are bone-ass tired, it is hard to be empathetic as your trudge down to the ER again, where no labs have been drawn yet, the patient gives a sketchy history at best, etc.

    But all that being said, I know that my empathy and compassion is not gone. I guess it is more selective. I chose to be with a gyn onc patient of mine as she died. It was my lunch hour, and though I was now on a different service, she had been my patient for the previous 10 days. I stayed with her, stroking her hair, her hand, even though she may not have known I was there. I stayed for her, and for her family, until she was gone. She was not an “easy” patient to have had. Denying up until the end that she was going to die, she was angry, in pain, and without admitting it, obviously scared, if not for herself, then for her children. At one point before she passed, I was talking with her best friend, who had been staying in the room with her for days. This friend told me how my patient really liked me (which was a surprise to me given my usual reception at 5:30 am), that even though she yelled and complained, I kept coming back, treating her with kindness and compassion as well as honesty.

    Those are the patients I have come to treasure, that have reminded me why I have chosen to go into medicine. That though I cannot always cure, I can make a difference in someone’s life, even if it is only a squeeze of the hand and a kind word.

    I know that medicine is full of headaches. I know that there will be days I wonder why I am doing this (there have already been those). But I guess there are moments as well, where I know that it is worth it. There will be a lot less time to spend with my patients as a resident; it is a privilege that most med students don’t realize they have. My heart, and my spirituality, though, are part of what lead me to medicine in the first place. And I think, if I remember to listen to them sometimes, it will be ok.



    Thank you docnroll and EemaMD for your input…it really helps me to hear that the good outweighs the bad! Being older, I am not a bright-eyed idealist. I know darn well that there are hateful things about ANY job, I simply prefer to have a career where I can make a meaningful difference to someone else. And if that means that I have to take a lot of bad with the occasional good, well it seems to me that that particualar occasional good can be pretty huge to the patient and their family, and ultimately to me. I agree with Sethina’s patient…some of us were just put here to do this.


    P.S. Kris–I am sorry I kind of stepped on your post, this one has just really been a BIG issue for me 🙂


    Well, I think a lot of times the grass is always greener- it’s easy to say that she wouldn’t go into medicine now- it’s also easy to regret not going into medicine. I also think that any career will have its difficulties.

    That said, I think that going into medicine with open eyes is very important, and I think talking to practicing doctors (both the positive and the negative) is very important. Will you be comfortable with the hours that you will need to work, both as a resident, and in practice (where hopefully you’ll have more control of your hours)? Do you see and understand how the insurance system/managed care will affect your ability to see and take care of patients? Do you have a plan on how to manage the debt, and the possible moves to medical school and to residency? I think if you really evaluate what medicine will be like and it fits with your personality and skills, then the sky’s the limit!


    Thank you for the wonderful and well-thought out posts here (and no, Val, I don’t think you were stepping on the post 🙂 ). There are some real issues here, but one thing that I have been asking myself and my husband (who wholeheartedly agrees with the negative opinions that have been expressed) is that there are no guarantees that if I chose another profession that I would be 100% satisfied all of the time :rolleyes: . That isn’t realistic. There are frustrations and problems inherent in any career. For instance, I chose to do my MS in Mol Bio so that I would have the opp to do research, improve my app AND have a back-up plan (ie a career in research). What I discovered is that my personality is woefully unsuited for research. Don’t get me wrong…I love solving puzzles, asking questions and trying to find a novel way to get at the solution, but I really enjoy contact with people and learning about them and their lives. My experience in the lab is that you are left on your own and there is little people contact. You may be making a small difference somehow, but because of the nature of research, you could end up researching a particular protein epxressed by a particular gene for the rest of your days…hardly the big picture of curing illness that I imagined either…

    The real kicker for me though, is that when I talked to my Mom, she said “why can’t you just be happy to find a little job”…this is a woman who worked as a nurse for 30 years and then went back to college and became a nurse practitioner…she’s working independently with another physician, etc….Because my husband is a physician, I’m sort of expected to sit back and live vicariously through him?

    I’m sorry…this is such a miserable rant…..I apologize in advance!



    I am a semi-disgruntled resident doc. As a child I thought doctors knew everything. You went to them for a problem, and it was fixed. I thought there was a “right” answer to every question, and doctors were able to know those answers. I’m a little disenchanted with medicine as a whole because now I realize it’s mostly guesswork and many times there are no answers at all, much less a “right” one. It’s frightening how much trust is placed in you at times with the little actual knowledge you have. I think instead of realizing this, people become angry at medicine, since it’s not what they had envisioned, and try to dissuade others from going down the same path.

    Just a thought. Could be totally wrong here.


    Perhaps the question you need to ask yourself is “why WOULDN’T I want to do that?” and then answer it honestly. I am in the same boat as you. I’m older and going back. I’ve taken time to talk with doctors, both male and female, and get their input. While I haven’t heard “I would not do it again”, I have heard, “I’d chose a different specialty if I did it over.” My MD friends continue to suggest that I consider radiology (because call is done from home these days over computer — at least that is what they tell me) or dermatology (because it is pretty much 8-5 without call). They feel that if an older person wants to go back, they need to consider their current family status and what medical field will work with their lifestyle. With 4 young children at home (who will still be home but teens when I get done) I need a field that will give me time with them.

    Like you I feel scared and confused at times. But I don’t doubt that this is the right thing to do for me. My heart and my spirituality also guide me and I believe have guided me to this point.

    When I began this process LeeAnn Womack came out with her song “I Hope You Dance.” It has been my inspiration. Listen to it when you have doubts and then recommit yourself to dance.

    I wish you the best and know that if you are on this bb you must truly believe this is where you are meant to be.


    I am a Family Physician, and I have been out of residency 9 years. My children are almost 5 and almost 1. I do not regret anything that I have done, but I am not at all sure that I would do it after kids. I am working “part time” with a very supportive spouse, and we are both exhausted all the time, and I can’t keep up with my work paperwork. My personal job situation used to be an utter joy, but in the last 3 years I have had a new boss, and my job situation has gone downhill amazingly. I do love what I do in the exam room, and I have the satisfaction of being darn good at it, but I am not really happy now. Children take SO MUCH time, and SO MUCH energy that I cannot imagine trying to do residency with them, at least when they are small like mine are now. I do not want to discourage anyone, but it is tough to do anything professional and spend real time with your kids, much less doing medicine. On the other hand, I never feel like I want to be a stay-at-home mom, and I am able to pay outrageous daycare fees with our two decent salaries. Good luck making these tough decisions, because there is no easy way to “have it all”.


    I just thought that I would add my 2 cents. Although I am merely an MS1, I have experience working in a “quasi-medical” field and am returning as an older student. My original “goal” in life was to be a physician, but so many people discouraged me from it when I was younger, citing the long hours, time commitment, paperwork issues, etc. that I rethought my life path. I entered the field of speech pathology (nursing wasn’t my thing), where I could perform quasi-medical tasks such as swallowing evals., video fluorographic studies, work, with trached or laryngectomy patients, etc. or work with children with speech-language disorders. Although I love my field, and I chose a supposedly more family-friendly field, I soon learned that the paperwork is insane, the fights with medicare and medicaid and attempting to justify services for people is probably very similar to what a doctor experiences (as if one month of speech therapy for a head trauma victim can “cure” them), and the long hours that I put in at home made me as unaccessible as if I were at an office. Halfway through graduate school, I could not put the idea of med. school out of my mind, but I wanted to finish my program. Throughout my licensure period (9 month supervision after getting masters degree), I began researching medical schools, landing a “comfy” job in an elementary school (where there are few insurance elements to deal with but still a whole heck of a lot of paperwork), the medical school dream could not be put back to sleep. So, here I am, 29 and entering the field that I had always wanted to do. I guess that the point that I am trying to make is that, if medicine is truly what you want, it is really darn hard to put that dream to sleep. If I had never gotten accepted, I could have finished the rest of my working life as a speech-pathologist, but the what-if would never have gone away. Now, knowing what it is like to fight with insurance companies (a communication aid for nonverbal people is now requiring your first-born child to secure, or so it seems), knowing how to tread the paperwork waters and stay afloat, knowing how much I continue to love patient interaction, and knowing how it feels to work like crazy (the first half of this year I was working 2-full time speech jobs, with all the paperwork rewards that come with it), I feel like I am entering this with both eyes open. As others have stated in this post, if you enter this with your eyes open, then you know what you are getting in to. Shadow a few doctors, and try to find the good as well as the bad advice. Try even asking the doctors (I did) what they like the best about their job, the least, and if they WOULDN’T do it again, why. Good Luck!



    I know very few physicians who love what they do. I have watched, shadowed, worked with, and had heart-to-heart talks with many docs over the years and most regretted their decision and encouraged me to stay away from medicine. I have to admit their advice affected me…and kept me away for a decade. But in the many years of growing, I have learned a few things: 1) Those physicians were/are at a bad place and need to make a change. They are responsible for their own lives/happiness and need to make their own choices about what is best for them. 2) While their advice is helpful in that it provides some insight into medicine, no one can possibly know what is best for me but me. While medicine may not be right for them (and they may unfortunately feel stuck after years of hard work), only I can/will be able to determine whether it is right for me.

    So, listen to your friend and learn from what she has to share. But, NEVER FORGET, you know best…you are the expert for your life. And no one (not even a physician) can possible know your heart or determine your path better than you can.

    It took me 15 years to quit listening to the “experts” and to listen to my own voice about what is right for my life. I hope it does not take others this long! Best of luck.


    I have read these postings with great interest. Can somebody help me? LDW, MD’s words echo many thoughts that I have been grappling with. I have just started my 3rd year of residency in a 4 year program. I have a 10 month old child. My husband is also a resident and extremely supportive of me. We have a live-in nanny who is excellent, and has been bringing the baby to me on a daily basis so I can breastfeed. (I’m sure she’s annoyed by this, which makes me feel badly, but she does it nonetheless.)
    Despite this wonderful set-up, I feel MISERABLE. I never really aspired to be a juggling, strung-out Super Mom. I think my greatest desire, since childhood, has been to have kids and be a good Mom. I also had a childhood wish to be a doctor, but the theoretics of it all is much greater than the realities, for me. I’m really not interested in practicing clinical medicine. And so I wonder: why do I need to continue residency?
    If I finish, I would be finishing just for the sake of finishing. I know that once I graduate, I will want to take time off to have more kids and be at home with them.
    I am a gregarious person who likes being around people, and I do enjoy my colleagues and patients. Yet I feel that my heart is ripped out of me every day when I go to work, and I find it such a struggle to continue breastfeeding (- a priority for me). My main goal of each day is to report to work as late as possible, do a decent job, and come home as soon as possible. I find myself skipping educational conferences to pump or to catch up on work that pumping takes time from.
    Does anyone have any thoughts or advice? I know the decision to quit residency is a big one and must be my own, but I am desperate for input (other than my Mom’s!) (My family, by the way, would be very disappointed if I quit.)
    Ultimately I cannot see myself being a full-time stay at home Mom forever, and herein lies the problem. If I want to come back to residency (say, even 10 years down the road), is that feasible? Most importantly, what can I do with an MD and an unfinished residency? Are there any flexible, jobs from home that would utilize my skills? Clearly I need vocational counseling but I simply do not have time right now.
    …Thank you for reading.

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