Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Career poll: if you weren't a doctor, what would you be?

Since beginning my clinical rotations as a medical student, I have been exposed to so many interesting, dynamic jobs within health care that I never knew existed such as Recreational Therapy, Occupational/Physical Therapy, Respiratory Therapy, Doula, Midwife, Lactation Consultant, Clinical Social Worker, the list goes on and on.

As someone who regularly follows MiM guest posts and who talks to many premedical students, I always find it interesting that exposure to other fields in medicine is so lacking. There are so many different ways to become a health care provider and though Doctors are among the highest in the hierarchy, without a diverse group of providers we not only fail to provide the best service to our patients, but we often fail to address core issues that determine health outcomes. 

With that said, for the physicians around:
  • if you weren’t a doctor what medical professional would you be or would you choose a completely different field?

And for those in training:
  • what other careers in medicine have you researched, considered, or shadowed in? What did you think?

My answers:

  • If I hadn’t become a doctor, I would be a Recreational Therapist with a focus on alternative methods such as massage and reiki or a Doula/Health Coach/Life Coach/Interior Decorator
  • Prior to my training, I didn’t really spend time shadowing Nurse Practitioners or Physician Assistants but should have. I will be entering academic community pediatrics in an urban setting and the overwhelming majority of my mentors and folks whose careers inspire me are Pediatricians. However, if I was interested in more community or rural medicine, pursuing a career as a  Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant would have been a possible alternate route to providing primary care with much less debt and better work-life balance.


  1. Physical therapist. They actually fix things and can't prescribe narcotics. I also love our peds PT who does early intervention with our daughter who has developmental delays. I think that would be really neat.

  2. Lactation Consultant! I am shadowing them as part of a 4th year elective right now and they are amazing! I've learned so much fascinating information, and working with newborns and moms is so much fun.

  3. I'm so intrigued by this post. I'm an RN and a lawyer, and I'm seriously contemplating medical school (I've been wondering if I took the wrong path from the very beginning). So I've been following MIM for a while to see what it's really like being a doctor and a mom, as I now have two babies. The idea of med school prerequisites/med school/residency with two kids (and hoping for a third) seems overwhelming to say the least, and the *much* easier path for me would be NP school (since I don't need any prereqs for it, it's much shorter, it's much cheaper, etc.). But I worry that I'll forever regret not going to med school. Will I not be respected on the healthcare team? Will I make way less than I could make as a doctor. (If I did med school, I would like to do peds.) Those are some thoughts I have. So this post is so helpful, and so is your comment to the most recent post before this post, to the woman contemplating an MD/phd program. Thank you so much for all your thoughts!

    1. "will I make way less..." no. not if you go into peds. the NPs I work with make almost what I do as an attending, but work far less. don't do it for the money.

  4. Thanks Ladies - keep the comments coming.

    @ Olga - aren't they awesome?!? I worked with an outpatient Lactation Consultant and it was even more amazing than inpatient.

    @ Mel - The previous post and my comments inspired me to write this post. I talk to soo many pre-med students who tell me what they want to do and pursuing medicine seems like the most circuitous route, but they have no idea about the other options out there. I am so glad you have found the post and my comment helpful.

    As I always say, the education you pursue should be determined by the job you ultimately want to have. If pursuing an MD is needed for the job you want at the end, go for it. But if you can do what you want with your NP, go to NP school and get to helping your patients as quickly as possible.

  5. Therapist - the PhD psych kind. During my psych rotation in med school, I remember thinking "if I want to do this, I should get a PhD". I've considering going back for training as a therapist (not a PhD - either a masters-level degree or a SciD) and may yet take the plunge someday.

  6. Great post. I actually did shadow a Speech Therapist and Physiotherapist. I tried hard to avoid medicine, but when I finally shadowed a military doc (my current profession), I was hooked. I knew it would be a hard road - and it has been even harder than I could have imagined. But for me, being a doc is my calling, and I love it.
    What I didn't realize at the time, was that being a mother was even more of my calling. It goes without saying that every woman will react differently to motherhood. For me, if I could do it again, I would choose a less "satisfying" (for me!) but still patient-centered, patient-contact focused profession, in order to afford more time, freedom, and flexibility with my family. I had my kids young and went in to a terrible amount of debt during my training - now, we struggle every month with the costs of our family and our debt. Shorter training, less debt (yes less pay at the end, but a lower tax bracket and still very good pay!), and more time at home in another profession would make the switch very satisfying, in my mind, for me. However, I can only say this from this side. If I'd made the other choice in the beginning, perhaps my thoughts would be much different! And I'm not horribly miserable now (I was burnt out last year though, it was truly awful), by any means, and I am not mired in regrets or anything. We have a good life! But in 20/20 hindsight, I would do things differently - despite having shadowed some other professions first.


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