Monday, September 16, 2013

MiM Mail: Regret going into medicine?

Dear MIM,

Hi there,

I am a 2nd year medical student, and I have a question for all the MIM's out there: Do you regret going into medicine?

The statistic has been steady around 50% for several years. This seems like a large percentage to me! I know that as humans, we tend to minimize challenges that we have overcome. For example, I remember there were so many times in first year when I felt like my world was collapsing, and that I would just never get through it. But when I did, I oftentimes found myself unjustly minimizing the past, saying "It wasn't all that bad."

So, I'd like to hear your authentic thoughts and reflections:  Do you regret going into medicine, why/why not?

Sincerely,

Andrea C.

22 comments:

  1. Not yet, but ask me again when I'm 1/2 through intern year.

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  2. I don't but I'm just an ms3 with only one kid.

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  3. I have very mixed feelings about it. I enjoyed med school, residency, and (most of) my attending job, but as soon as I could, I started working part-time. (I had a military obligation that I finished.) Now I'm seriously considering stopping work altogether when baby #3 arrives in the spring, as I'd have to work full-time to afford childcare for 3 kids under 5, and neither my husband or I want me to work full-time. (Husband is also a physician.) I find it very frustrating that taking a break from medicine of a few years will make it very difficult - if not impossible - to come back, but I'm also rather disenchanted with the daily details of practicing civilian medicine, so maybe that's pushing me away as well?
    Basically - the good - I felt good about what I did when I had to leave my babies, the pay is decent; the bad - full-time is significantly more than 40h/wk, can never work from home (the stress of sick kids when neither parent can take off and there is no nearby family is high), and inflexible career paths with limited opportunities to work part-time.
    Hope this isn't too long. My situation is a little different than usual - no loans, courtesy of the US Navy; husband still active duty military so moving every 2-4 years, always a plane flight away from any extended family; hope to have a large-ish family (expecting #3 at the moment, hoping for another 1-2 after that), so we're doing a lot of pondering the future.
    I will say that having loans to pay back would be a deal-breaker for me and make me really regret going into medicine, as I wouldn't have any choices right now.

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    1. Replying to myself after reading the rest of the comments to say that I actually don't regret going into medicine in the first place, or what I've done so far. For one, I met my husband on day 1 of intern orientation. For the rest, the work is meaningful, etc. So while I don't regret what I've done so far, I'm seriously considering leaving medicine for the foreseeable future (an indeterminate length of time, but long enough that it would require some formal re-entry). I do feel quite a bit of guilt about that, as I only graduated from med school in 2006, and thus will have worked for just shy of 5 years after residency. While I don't regret my training (and, again, actually enjoyed much of residency), it will mean that I trained longer than I worked. Is it worth it in that sense?

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  4. Absolutely not. I can't imagine doing something else I'd find more meaningful. I can make a difference in people's lives and their experiences of illness. I work with smart, caring people. I do something that make my children proud. I provide for my family. This is what I'm supposed to be doing, and it makes me a better person and mother for it.

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  5. Totally regret it but loans breathing down our neck means too bad so sad keep on moving forward one foot in front of the other. I remember medical school thinking what you just said: it wasn't so bad. Ha! Can't even bring myself to say that about anything in residency. It's all bad. Let's hope attending life isn't so bad or this will be the end of me and my family.

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    1. Attending life is 100% better, I promise. I hated residency too.

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    2. Attending life is 100% better, I promise. I hated residency too.

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  6. Nope. I don't regret it one bit. Despite going crazy sometimes trying to manage my three kids, physician husband, and part-time job, I feel my job gives me great balance. I don't know any other professions that would give me a chance to work part-time for decent pay (although I know finding a part-time job in peds is easier than say, surgery). I know being blessed with family nearby to help with the kids probably colors my response.

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  7. Sometimes. On the one hand, I love being in medicine (currently a fourth year medical student, applying for residency in a field that I truly love and am excited to work in). At the same time I hate that I'm forced to be away from my kid so often, and hate that I need to rely on family so much to take care of said kid (although I'm extraordinarily lucky to have family nearby to rely on). I'm really hoping that I'll keep loving medicine as much as I do, otherwise I'm not sure it'll be worth it. Wouldn't that be sad.

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  8. The answer to your question varies, depending not only on who you ask, but more importantly when you ask them. I have felt very tempted to leave, unable to see past the constant juggle between children and relatively inflexible hospitals. Now though, with older children at school and nearing the end of training, the balance is easier and leaving feels wrong. I am excited about my work and my future, and confident my children have not missed out in any way, but I did work part time up until now, which has made the journey longer. Part of me wishes I'd just got it out of the way whilst they were little, but I would have missed so much. Only you can decide what's right for you, knowing what resources you have in your partner, family, finances. But what I will say is this. Every time I thought about whether to continue, I knew I had to make the choice consciously, and not just passively. Training is a treadmill, with each mile marking it harder and harder to stop. The sadness is not in choosing to stop. Rather I think it's not choosing at all, and staying in medicine because you've already put in so much and it's hard to leave. Medicine requires passion and a love of your work. Without that its just too hard. So whatever you decide, please, do decide, and be happy with your choice. I nearly quit a thousand times and if I had, I don't think it would have been the wrong choice. The challenges were huge for me, wanting to be home, no family or money. Just my husband and me. Am I glad I stayed? Not sure. I don't think staying was the wrong choice either, just a different choice. Either way, I am now in a very happy place. But finishing the marathon doesn't always make you happy you did one, and I remain undecided as to whether I regret staying the distance. Perhaps it's more I'm happy I did, but I wish the path could have been easier. Does that make sense?

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  9. Interesting that these results are also not too far from 50-50 so far. Medicine has its challenges. I'd venture a guess that most of my friends from residency and current colleagues don't regret it at this point (PGY 11).

    I don't regret it. I regret the loans and the fact that it took me so long to finish training as a subspecialist. Having a husband who was willing to be a stay-at-home dad made the finances worse but the life a heck of a lot better. I'm in a pretty good place now.

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  10. I don't regret it. I graduated without loans, and that makes an enormous difference. Very very lucky. I love what I do. I had a job that was abusive - not in the traditional medical work-till-you-drop way but in the old-fashioned patriarchal women-are-dirt way - and it sucked, but even while it sucked I was doing work that mattered and I was touching people's lives. Yes, sappy and yes, cliché but also entirely true.

    There is nothing - absolutely nothing - that can rival the knowledge that my presence has relieved suffering. Not the medication, but my arrival in the room.

    I am a better mother because I'm a doctor, but even if I weren't, it's worth it because I love it.

    And, having said all that, I might at some future date choose to do something else, and I would still not regret choosing medicine.

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  11. There were times when I regretted medicine, as a medical student and then intern/resident... I found the hours tough and was frustrated at all the rote-learning, hierarchical structures and lack of creativity (following protocols all the time, etc). I yearned to do something more creative (I had done a little bit of study previously in philosophy, and in music) and where 'thinking' was prized over just 'knowing' stuff or following protocols right.

    Now that I am a mother, I don't feel that so much because I no longer expect work to give me all my satisfaction. I tolerate the imperfections (knowing that they exist in any job) and am grateful that in my field (EM) I can work part-time, in a stable job, for decent pay. For my creative outlet I play in a couple of amateur orchestras from time to time - that helps me feel more balanced, too.

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  12. Don't regret it at all, and I graduated over 25 years ago. I graduated with a huge debt, but we paid it off in 7 years (1/2 my husband's salary plus all of mine for those years went to loan repayment). I'm in academic medicine and postponed childbearing until near the end of my 30s, which worked well for me. I love the variety of my life, the flexibility (given the need to get a whole lot done at some point). I still get a big kick out of starting an IV, giving meds (I'm an anesthesiologist, so I actually get to administer them), deciding how to manage a complex patient, and passing it on to trainees.
    Keys in my mind: found a specialty I love, married someone outside medicine (important for me not to talk about it all the time), great colleagues who make work fun, and taking on new challenges every few years. I don't think everyone belongs in medicine, though-- just glad I turn out to.

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  13. Honestly, sometimes, but isn't that the way it is with most things in life? Example, when your 2 year old is screaming and having a tantrum, I know I think to myself "what in the world did I get myself into?".

    I think everyone in life has aptitudes and limitations, providing excellent patient care is one of my aptitudes. I like/love/really dislike my job (Peds 2nd year Resident) on different days, but I always remind myself that THIS is my calling and I've got to go through the difficult training to get to my Dream Attending Job (I can see it, feel it taste it, know others living it and it is good!!!). So if one can't see their Dream Attending Job as a likely reality, I say run, run far away.

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  14. I don't regret it at all. There's significance and weight to how we spend our days that is simply not present in other (more lucrative or flexible) professions. Are there days when I absolutely hate it? Yes, but on those days I usually want to be on a beach in Mexico, not sitting behind a desk on the 14th floor of some skyscraper or moving numbers around on an spreadsheet. I think what hh wrote is spot on- this isn't a profession for everyone and unfortunately some people end up here who probably would have been happier elsewhere. It isn't glamorous, the loans suck, and there are a lot of bitter co-workers, disappointed patients, and (depending on your job) the unending grind of "publish or perish" . Sh** happens, and usually to the best people. But life goes on. LIve, learn, and vow to do it better next time. There is a lot of good that can be done here, and when you get to be a part of it it's like participating in a small miracle.

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  15. I think the answer is kind of complicated. I imagine most women will have moments they love it and moments they hate it, pretty much like any other woman with a "high end" career. Is it difficult? Definitely. Is it rewarding? Sometimes. Is there anything you'd rather be doing (that is financially sustainable)? You have to figure that out for yourself.

    I'm ten months away from the end of my residency, and I'm glad I did it, but pretty much only because there's nothing else I'd rather be doing (said in a somewhat grudging, rather than an enthusiastic, way). I'd rather pursue any number of my hobbies and/or stay home, but we have loans to pay off, kids to send to college without the benefit of financial aid (because of our family salary), and the expenses of daily living.

    Most importantly: everybody is different. I thought medical school was the world's greatest vacation EVER (and I finished with really high step scores, in AOA). I hated internship, and residency has been tolerable, mostly because I specifically picked one I thought would be liveable. I can't even begin to imagine life as a surgery resident, which was my original intention. There have been a few amazing "THIS is why I went into medicine" moments, mixed in with mostly exhaustion and frustration and guilt of being away from family. Everyone has their own story. If it works for you, kudos! If you feel like it isn't working for you, I suspect that you'll find some way of making it work - either by switching fields altogether, or hanging in there but making modifications (either in lifestyle, or your personal expectations).

    It's a very personal question, but on the balance, I think that given the choice, many women would probably do it again, some wouldn't, and it mostly depends on who you ask, when you ask them, and what do their spouses do and think.

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  16. I like patients, I like working in the field of medicine, but if I had it to do over again, I would not choose to go to medical school. I do think that debt matters. I am 200k in debt, ready to get on with life, in my 30s, and still have two years of training to go. It is frustrating as I watch other people move on with their lives. I'm also from a family of nurses and NPs and see the contrast. I realize that I could have saved years of time and started making a comfortable living earlier if I'd gone an alternate route. I considered dentistry and nursing -> NP but once I was accepted to med school, it was a GO. It's hard to say no to a med school acceptance, even if you have doubts. I will say I was let down because my "passion" was ob and did not find it to be compatible with being a mom. I have been "putting being a mom #1" which in medicine means doing a less lucrative, less intense job, and if your scores aren't stellar, that pretty much means primary care. I think I would have been really happy as a dermatologist, but that is why it's so competitive. I loved delivering babies, but not at the expense of sleep and family. I sort of wish I had gone the dental route. It seems to be a great lifestyle and good pay, plus residency isn't required. But like others have said, maybe it is timing. Once I'm an attending working part time, I hope to feel better about it all.

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  17. Not sure whatever happened to my response. I can't think of any reason it was censored. But I LOVE my job. Ok, I have been working 12 days straight and I was about ready to burst out of clinic today, but I do love it.

    Firstly, I have a supportive husband who is now a stay at home dad to three wonderful little boys. Secondly, I picked a specialty which is in super high demand, though as not highly paid as some specialties. This has allowed us to live near family. Having hubby stay home allows us to really make the most out of life. We did not picture it ending up this way but we are happy. Finally I took a position with a group with the same goals as I do: good patient care but with balanced lives. Really, we are pampered compared to some practices I looked at but nobody is working themselves to death.

    So, it took a lot of planning to make it so. But I love it now and think I have crafted a sustainable life.

    I think lifestyle is very important to deciding a specialty, but I picked one that is not a lifestyle specialty and we are still happy and fulfilled.

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  18. Some of you may laugh at my post since I'm just a rookie, but I'm currently doing the pre-med requirements to hopefully have a chance at attending a medical school. I personally, being a woman and a mom of 1 already, find myself in fear of the commitment vs. family. I don't fear the length or compromise, what I fear is if I'll feel like I'm neglecting my family in the future. Well, not to mention also the fear of not feeling smart enough...but I've heard I'm not the first student who's felt this way. Any advise?

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  19. YES. I hate it. I wish I could leave, but I can't right now financially. Maybe one day...

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