Hello Mothers in Medicine!
I'm a 41 year old mom of two kids, ages 13 and 10. About 3 years ago I thought, ok... it's time to start thinking beyond stay-at-home mom jobs that are part-time and intermittent. It's time to think of what career I want to choose, now that my kids are in school during the day. I have a bachelor's degree in Social Work, with a minor (actually almost a major) in music. I love working with people. But, after working in the social work field for 6 years prior to having kids, I decided I wanted something different. I also taught music for several years while my kids were at home, but found I wasn't being challenged enough. Social work was too open-ended for me. I wanted to diagnose a problem, then make a plan to work on fixing it. Around this time is when my mother became very ill at the age of 68. A normally healthy active person, she exhibited many odd symptoms that stumped many doctors. Finally an infectious disease doctor diagnosed her with Cryptococcus Gattii, fungal meningitis. I helped my parent's through her horrible disease, and realized after a year of her being in and out of the hospital and rehab facililties for physical and occupational therapy, that I loved medicine. It was the hardest year of my life, watching my mom suffer. And, it also changed me.
In a casual conversation with my mother's doctor, he said, "Oh, I think you'd be a great doctor!" Something clicked in my brain at that point, and I began to obsess over the possibility of becoming a doctor. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I spent the following weeks researching programs, and figuring out what I'd need to do to get into med school. Of couse, I quickly became overwhelmed with all the classes I'd have to take. But, I've started taking one prereq class at a time.
Here's where I'm at...my passions really are mixed. I love medicine, and helping people heal. I also strongly believe that we need to treat the whole person, not just the disease. I believe that helping a patient in the healing process involves not just the medicine, but their nutrition, their mental and emotional health and well-being, and finding the source of the disease and treating that. Asking the question: "Why did the patient become ill/injured in the first place?" is a really important question. Because of this approach, I'm very interested in Naturopathic Medicine, integrated with Allopathic Medicine. I'd love to see the two working together. Both have important things to offer, and both are critical in the healing of the whole patient. My mom would have died without the administration of Amphotericin B. But, I can definitely say that naturopathic medicine could help clean up the aftermath of the disease, if it were included in her insurance. I would love to become a Naturopathic Physician. But, again, I am 41 and have kids. Doing this would mean 4 years of medical school, plus a residency (which in natural medicine is usually about 2 years). Another option would be to become an MD, instead of an ND, and focus on integrative medicine. This is looking at 4 years of medical school, plus about 4 years of residency. My OTHER option is to become a Physician's Assistant. It basically requires the same prereq's as the other degree's, ND and MD, but it's only 2 years of intense schooling rather than 4-8. I would need 2000 hours of health care experience in order to apply to a program, which I don't have yet. It would take me 8-10 years to become a doctor (prereq's + med school + residency), and about 4 years to become a PA ( prereq's + healthcare experience + school).
Another problem area for me is that I am not able to uproot my family for schooling. I live an hour away from an excellent medical school (OHSU), and also an hour away from a really good naturopathy school (NCNM). These two schools would be my only option to become an ND, MD, or PA. Kind of putting all my eggs in one of 2 baskets! I'm leaning toward becoming a PA, just because it's less time, and I'm older. Plus, I could work in an integrative clinic and do the natural health stuff that I'm interested in.
Here's some questions I have for you:
What's it like to be in med school when you have kids? Can you have any sort of life?
What are your thoughts on ND vs. MD vs. PA, considering my age and phase of life?
We are a single income family, and make about $70,000/ year. We've learned to live simply, but I'm worried about the amount of bills I will rack up in medical school. Is this a valid fear? How long did it take you to pay off yours? I fear that I'll be spending my entire career paying off my med school bills.
If you had it to do over again, what would you have changed?
So many people say to follow my dreams, and go straight for becoming a doctor. But, they don't realize how much sacrifice that would be for my family. If I didn't have a family I would definitely become a doctor. But, I don't want to lose what I have with them. This is why I am seriously considering becoming a PA. Am I cheating myself? Or just being realistic?
Thanks for reading my really long message. I'd love any input any of you might have. I know you're very busy with career and family. So, I will be patient and wait for your response. Thanks for your help in this huge decision I'm making.