Monday, July 25, 2011

MiM Mailbag: Considering a medical career later in life

Mothers in Medicine:

I just stumbled upon your blog in my quest for information about later careers in medicine.  I have been considering a transition to nursing.  I am 32 years old, have never been married and haven't been a mother at this point.  However, I was wondering if you might have any information or resource suggestions regarding preparing and applying to medical school later in life.  While I am interested in nursing, I did not realize medical school could potentially be an option, that older candidates could be considered, and I would love to find more information about how women are doing this.

Thank you for any guidance you might provide - this blog is great!



  1. B - I personally went to medical school at 29, and it was not nearly as daunting a process as I had expected. We had a significant population of "older" students, with the oldest in my class being 34 at the time. Other classes have had much older students (into their late 40s and beyond). My advice would be to read blogs and talk to people in medicine as much as you can so that you can get a sense of whether this would be something that you'd want to do. It's a major commitment of time (9-10 years after my B.Sc. and M.Sc. for me) and money, so it's important to be reasonably certain that it's something you want to do before you start the application process.

  2. I'm a 36 year old 3rd year med student. Age can be a great asset. I have more experience in the world than many of my classmates. The advice I would give is to choose your school carefully, if possible. Look for a school that values collaboration and patient oriented medicine. Review things like the student health insurance to make sure that it will meet your needs. I decided to pursue med school rather than anything else because, while the initial time investment was longer, I would be a doctor for the rest of my life. What do you want to do for the rest of your life?

  3. I do not necessarily recommend med school at mature age. Simply could not imagine myself being in school forever. At some point it has to stop and you should be making comfortable living earlier in life rather than later. I have a few friends who pursued NP and CNA degrees after RN, at mature age with school age children. Both degrees take only 2 years (less time and loans) and you can make more money than primary care physician if you want to.It also does not require post-medschool 3 years of residency. So 2 years vs 7 years. And what I am envious about - no need to retake your boards constantly for the rest of your life (another few years out of your life while you are working and raising family). good luck.

  4. I started an MD-PhD program at 29, and hope to start residency by age 37. Going to med school has been one of the best decisions I've ever made, and I really do think being older and having worked before has helped give me perspective on the whole process and made it less painful. It has been totally worth it thus far.

    I'd suggest a) getting your finances in order and figuring out a way to pay for it, and b) figuring out what your timeline would be in terms of pre-reqs, MCATs, and the application process and how best to get those done.

  5. Why not? If you love what you are studying, it's not work. I agree that the more seasoned medical students can have lots of insights and perspectives that come with time.

    A word to the wise. There are a few 3 year medical programs in Canada, some of which don't require the MCAT or as many science prerequisites as they recognize the importance of multiple modalities of learning. Don't know about the states. Combine that with a family medicine residency (which is paid work), you could be out in as little as 5 years.

  6. I started med school at 31. I regret it. The grass is not greener on this side. I had a perfectly good job beforehand. It has been a $200,000 mistake. Don't do it.
    Age is not an advantage.

  7. Re final anon's point, as an MD-PhD there will be no debt for me when I get out, and I have to say that makes me feel a whole lot better about everything. Not that I ever would walk away from medicine, but I could and still not have a mountain of debt to pay off. It's worth thinking about. Golden handcuffs SUCK!!

  8. I started med school at 27. I am Canadian so I finished med school and family medicine residency in 6yrs, so I was done everything by 33. I met my husband in my first year of residency so we married when I finished and we had our first child when I was 34. I'm expecting my 2nd at 37. Having said this I finished my Bachelors at 21 and my Masters at 23...I thought I was so ahead of the game, then when I went into medicine I felt so old. But the 4yrs in between normal life and med school I did everything I wanted to like travel solo, party (almost daily) and I learned a couple of different languages. I did clinical research back then. The flexibility and money was much less, but I have to say I was much happier then, with a simpler life. Not sure if it was 'cause I was younger.
    But now I am able to work part-time and be there for my 2 kids and husband...
    I am still paying off a debt as well and it'll take me another few years.
    I guess my point is that you should know yourself really well and know what you are giving up and know what you're in for. Med school later in life is not easy. There are many days that I miss my old pre-med life, but I am grateful regardless for the opportunity that I have right now.

  9. For what it's worth, GW had features some "older" women in their graduating medical school class of 2011, see as you might find their stories helpful.

  10. I'm a third year medical student with a 3 yr old. I love medical school and wouldn't change a thing. I want to echo what someone said above though, choose your school wisely. I plastered my "mommy status" all over my application. If a school was going to have issues with me being a mom, I WANTED them to reject me. I plan to do the same for residency apps.

    Also, make sure your spouse is 100% supportive. You can't be the primary care giver while going to med school. You can't take time off when your child is sick. You won't be reliable for pick-up and drop off. I have a lot of time for my son and we have a great relationship, but I can't do it in the traditional way. Make sure you know what you are getting into.

  11. How does one find a good school for moms? ... I am applying now ... and expecting baby girl at the end of the month!


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