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Thread: A star medical student feels like he made a terrible decision

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    A star medical student feels like he made a terrible decision

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    The following was recently written by an anonymous medical student:

    It is February of our last few months of clinical rotations. I am a rising fourth-year medical student at a well-known East Coast institution with a not-so-bad track record, I guess you could say. I scored in the top percentile for the USMLE Step 1, honored my third-year rotations, and have comments from attendings about how I am destined to succeed in this career. One might think that at this point in my life, I should feel confident, well-accomplished, and hopeful for the future. In the last month, there’s been a lot of talk about residency and deciding on a specialty. To me, this meant finally looking back onto my life, my experiences, and all that medicine has meant for me. And I can’t help but feel that I have made a terrible, terrible decision.

    I have always dreaded, but predicted, this outcome for me in medicine. I know I can make fickle decisions. I didn’t think medicine was one of them. I was an extremely diligent student for all of my life; I follow and play by rules very well like most others in this field. A lover of biology since grade school, I never saw another path for myself. I heard about medicine’s long journey, and many people (and many doctors) had attempted to dissuade me in all sorts of ways: the infamous “scary” cadaver lab, the years of schooling and residency, nights staying up to study and work, the broken health care system, the inevitably jaded fate of many physicians these days. I was a non-believer. I did not think it would happen to me. And onwards I went — learning what patient care and rounds are like while volunteering as a pre-medical student, studying for months on end for the MCAT, taking years off after Uni to continue my dream of becoming a doctor.

    Now, I am almost there. I am almost a doctor. I stand at the intersection of many specialties. The difficulties in this choice tell me that I am probably not fit, ultimately, for a career in medicine. I learned that the sacrifices to become a doctor continue into the later years of this career. I learned that there is no such thing as job stability (residency and fellowship are each opportunities to get utterly uprooted from your life). I learned that internists, the quintessential doctor that I grew up admiring, do not have my dream job. I learned that too often do doctors, in general, have to fight the broken system, but internists especially. Broken patients. Broken insurance. A broken health care compensation system that prioritizes crisis intervention, and does not pay doctors to use their intelligence, skills, empathy and sense of humanity to really care for patients.

    A star medical student feels like he made a terrible decision-48739widemodern_frustrateddoctor_102213.jpg

    And that brings me to my next point: empathy. I entered medical school so that I can care for others and make connections with complete strangers in the most vulnerable time of their life. I learned that empathy, in general, is not rewarded in medicine. On rounds, I learned that empathy, and a person’s humanity and suffering, is not spoken about (but we will talk on and on about the patient’s rise in creatinine, hyponatremia, etc.).

    And so, medical students learn quickly how to play this game. We enter noble. We leave jaded. We leave seeing that the smart move is to get out of it. And so the smartest of the smartest, the ones lucky enough to have a choice, go into fields where they limit their involvement with patients: dermatology, radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology. It begs the question: why are these the happiest, the most high-salaried, and patient-limited specialties? They all must have a connection.

    The winning card of this game was flashed to me early in my third year. I saw that the internist can stay up all night caring for the ICU patient on the brink of death, and have half the job satisfaction (and half the pay) of the dermatologist who sleeps in on Saturdays and refuses to come in for an urgent derm consult. Compensation shouldn’t be the end-all, but numbers tell you how much society values you. And when this doctor-to-be sees that the values that brought individuals into medicine have seemingly vanished in the residents and attendings that he works with, and is not talked about anymore after the interview to get into medical school, he feels like he’s been completely duped.

    Gone like smoke, like we’re all in some sort of circus funhouse. Except it’s not fun. It’s jarring, scary, disappointing, and absolutely depressing. But more than being afraid for myself, I am scared for our future doctors, because I know I am not the only one that feels this way.

    The author is an anonymous medical student.
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    aimu observer is offline Member 511 points
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    What you are saying might apply to the USA.........BUT it does not necessarily apply elsewhere.
    I never felt that way. but then I worked elsewhere

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    AmirW is offline Newbie 511 points
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    I am a little older and the moment I became a licensed md ( outside the US) already many years back. In some way I recognize your story, so much so that for some time I left the medical field even. The answer to your question is 2-layered: medicine is a way of life and you have to live it and get used to it properly before you actually can really appreciate. Yes, many scare away from empathic care as it is hard and to be honest if not done properly it kills you off faster then it helps patients pure by sheer load. However, truth be told, to be able to keep working in the long run, you have to like what you do, you have to like your medical specialization. The fact it pays well, won't keep you at it , not in the long run..

    So.. After all the , perhaps extra confusing words, I mentioned above, my best advice: you have come this far, stay on your path and you will find all the answers when the dust settles down... Give it time.. You don't have the full picture, not by a long shot.
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    Future Doctor MD is offline Newbie 511 points
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    I think the problem is that many doctors feel entitled, as if they should be paid a certain amount or receive some type of recognition for the work they do. Maybe this is true, maybe it isn't, but it honestly shouldn't be something that phases you. Remember the roots of why you (hopefully) became a physician: not for money, not for praise, entitlement or respect, but to help people. Yea, the US health care system sucks, and some doctors are paid more than others, but boo hoo. You should be happy that you're in a position that allows you to make such critical decisions regarding another person's life. This is true regardless of what specialty or pay you have. Also, there's happy and sad people in each specialty. Pick the one you find yourself most satisfied in, that's what M3 and M4 are about.

    As soon as a doctor starts thinking "I definitely should get paid more than that other guy," s/he needs to take a step back and rethink their ultimate objectives and choices.
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    GAU Admin is offline School Official 510 points
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    There is no career path that is not full of challenges!

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    devildoc8404 is offline Ultimate Member 12687 points
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    Quote Originally Posted by GAU Admin View Post
    There is no career path that is not full of challenges!
    ...and there are very (VERY) few that require as much sacrifice as medicine. There is a reason that increasing numbers of physicians in the US would not recommend medicine as a career for their kids.

    "When I haven't any
    blue... I use red
    ."
    - Pablo Picasso

    BA - Oregon MS - BYU MD - MU-Sofia
    Urology Resident; Clinical Research Fellow



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    faithhill is offline Newbie 510 points
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    it happens. never too late to start over

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