Monday, December 29, 2014

MiM Mail: Advice for non-traditional mom

Hello and thank you for your blog! I am wondering what advice you might give for a slightly older mom considering medicine after the baby-phase. My husband and I are both teachers at an international school and we are looking to transition to living back in the States near our families. I am considering applying for medical school for the fall of 2016 and have completed all the prereqs, taken the MCAT, and have all my letters of rec on file.

We have four children, ages 12, 10, 5, and 17 months. I would start medical school with my oldest beginning high school and my youngest being three years old. I am in my late thirties, and investing in a career in medicine would combine my pure love of science with a passion for extending the tremendous care-giving roles I have had over the years.

I have hesitated to go down this road because of the tremendous financial investment as well as the time required, but I have loved my various experiences in health care throughout my career up to this point. I would love any personal advice on whether this path is worth it!



  1. Med school/residency is tough at baseline, and always harder for non-traditional students. But if it is what you really want to do, don't let being different worry you. One of my best friends in medical school turned 50 the month we graduated. As long as you are realistic about the difficulties (both financially and time wise), you can do it.

  2. It can be done. Are your older kids good babysitters, helpers? That's the way big families handled it in the past. Many hands make light work! … On the other hand, do a realistic assessment of yourself and your family. I am an MS2 with a 3-year-old. For me, the academics come naturally (though in my early 30s it is still a bit more difficult to memorize). On the other hand, my husband has a challenging career, the clinical years coming up will be rough on us. … Do a realistic inventory of your own strengths and liabilities. The help you have and can afford to get, etc. It can be done! 4 kids itself seems tough to me. … But it sounds like you have your ducks in a row, you've given it a lot of thought. Your kids will be another 1.5 years older. Be sure to have lots of frank conversations with your husband (partner, support people, whomever) because it takes a while to understand all the phases of education and training and the time required and the geographic limitations that come along with that … Good luck!

  3. Hi! I'm an older single mom who is a born again intern. (I'm also a proud MiM alum). It is definitely doable - I found medical school to be the easy part. I vastly underestimated how easy it would be to get into medical school and residency, however. Both can involve a lot of travel (and expense) for applications, interviews and then eventual acceptance. I felt a distinct disadvantage because I couldn't apply and audition as widely as my peers.

    I wrote an advice article on this site a few years ago, before my stroke of luck when a brand new program in my specialty opened in my neighborhood, and recruited me. Enjoy, and good luck with everything:

  4. I was a non traditional mom at the start of medical school. I started at age 30 as a single mom and would NEVER look back. Yes, it's hard but the good kind of hard. You learn early on what it takes to be successful because you have other priorities. I am a 4th year going into ob/GYN (GYN surgery eventually) and I've come to realize it takes others to make sure you are successful. My goal for years 1 and 2 were to be as successful (As and Bs) but making sure I could have as much time with my daughter as I could. It's hard, but you can find as much of a balance as possible. I'm in the process of making a guide to med school for mothers on medicine...if you would be interested, let me know!

  5. I am also a non traditional mom student. I am currently in MS2 in Canada. I have a single daughter who is 7 y.o. It's not easy everyday, but you can certainly do it. Your family is big, but most of your kids are older and can help (well, I hope they can). If you have a very supportive husband and children (I believe at least the older ones should be in the discussion and understand the challenges), you can do it. I am very happy where I am and would not go back, even though I loved my previous job (in pharma industry). Good luck to you!

  6. I agree with all of the above, but I also have great respect for nurse practitioners and Physician Assistants who have shorter, less expensive training but lead equally fulfilling lives.

  7. To OP: I say go for it! You have helping hands. You will also have more helping hands if you get to be close to family like you said you are hoping to be.

    Side note: I absolutley love and appreciate this blog! I am a junior doing pre-reqs right now and hoping to apply next year for med school. I am almost 27 and have a 7 year old son and 4 year old daughter and work full time as well. Every day I have to keep telling myself that it is possible to complete this and get it done and you ladies are an incredible inspiration. I have been a CNA for 8 years and know this is where I want to go and am hoping that even as a non-trad I will be a good candidate for med school. I discovered blogging last year when I wanted to document my journey of being a gestational surrogate. I love writing and am hoping to eventually be present here a bit more as I spend a lot of time reading here as it is!

  8. Hi Sara, as a current resident in IM I want to caution you. Medical school is tough, but residency is brutal. Even with new duty hour restrictions, 70-80 hour weeks are not unusual. It varies by specialty, but even in easier specialties you will have months when you are working nearly all the time. In medical school it is possible to achieve work-life balance, but in residency it is much harder and at times impossible. Make sure you and your husband are prepared for you to sacrifice a lot of time with family for at least a few years *after* medical school. Research it carefully, and good luck.


Comments on posts older than 14 days are moderated as a spam precaution. So.Much.Spam.