Monday, March 23, 2015

MiM Mail: Ever too late for medicine?

Hello, I am a 34 year old working mother of two young children (3.5 years old and 14 months). I have been working as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry for a number of years now. I have been thinking of becoming a doctor since 2005. I applied to one local university in 2012, received an interview but was put on the waiting list thereafter. My husband is very supportive of my decision to pursue medicine and I would like to reapply at some point in the future. There are a few things holding me back from applying any time soon though. We would like to try for a third baby before it becomes "too late" age-wise. Also, I'm realizing more and more that I like to be heavily involved in my children's lives. I enjoy the home-making side of my life very much and I find it difficult being apart from them for extensive periods of time (my current job is about 40 hours a week and I'm ok with that because I get to have dinner with the family, put kids to bed and have weekends with them). I very much want to pursue medicine but I'm so scared of losing the family side of my life and that I won't really be a part of my children's memories if I'm busy in medical school and then long hours in residency and as an attending. I have no problem studying (I love it!) and working hard, but I want to be there for my family. So my question is, would it be completely unreasonable to postpone medicine for a few years, maybe 5? 10? Or whatever it takes for me to feel that I have nurtured my children to the point where they are ok with me not being there often? (I have heard of women successfully entering medicine in their 40s and even 50s). I have no idea when I would feel "ready," and I know that age can be a factor when you want to pursue certain specialties, but I'm actually interested in family medicine with a focus on OB. I'm just having a hard time envisioning myself being both a good mummy and a good doctor at the same time. I feel like one area will suffer, and for me, my family is my top priority. I have several doctors in my extended family and have talked extensively with them but they are all males so I have not had much female perspective other than what I have been researching online and reading in books. I would really appreciate your feedback on my dilemma. Thank you so much for your time.

12 comments:

  1. Seems like we get a post just yours every few weeks: please read 3/5/2015 "Whose Dream Comes First" and especially read the comments.

    I have copied and pasted my response - it almost fits perfectly as a response to your post:

    FEW QUESTIONS: you spoke repeatedly about your dream of going to medical school, but you didn't say what part of medicine you are most interested in pursuing. Given that you are a researcher, have you done any recent shadowing? I would HIGHLY suggest you spend some time shadowing in various fields as there are soo many different ways to be a health care provider these days (physicians, physician assistants, PT/OT/ respiratory therapists, midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, recreational therapists, nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, parent educators).

    I HIGHLY recommend that you think about what you want your final work days and weeks to look like and talk to folks about it - shoot, you can write another post and tell all of us and we can help. You may find out after talking to some of us in training and in practice that the job you really want doesn't require a medical degree and if it doesn't run as fast as possible away from the medical school track. Like "rockingwithhawking" said the day to day interactions with your specific patient population will be most important to your life after training.

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  3. I think you seriously need to consider what your goals are, how much time and money you're willing to spend on them and when in your children's lives it's "okay" for you to be a medical student, resident or attending.

    What you're proposing by starting medical school in five years is adding a major expense AND losing your salary when you have three children, ages ?, 6 and 8. Is that something you can reasonably do for four years?

    Intern year is extremely time-consuming and difficult. Can you work 80 hours a week when you have children ages ?, 10 and 12?

    Alternately, if you wait ten years and start medical school when you're 44 (the "old" kids in my med school class were 29, btw) you'll finish at 48, and then finish residency at 51. Will you be able to pay back any loans you take?

    Your answer to these questions may be "Yes! It's worth it!" and then, great, it's not too late for you. Alternately, I think this is the time to start researching nursing school, NP or nurse-midwifery, pharmacy school, becoming a PA, etc.

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  4. It sounds like you have a pull toward medicine, and no doubt many applicable skills, but other things pulling you too. For me, I didn't know it at the time, but medicine became my second child. As in we haven't had time or room in our lives for another, and we may not. Is that something you can accept? … Or if you do have that third child, can you handle NOT being the primary person for that youngest and having him/her running to dad with an ouchie? These are just the easy parts of this path, let me tell you. … I am not sure I would do it over again, and I am not even through school. On the other hand studying medicine has been a privilege I have very much enjoyed. And the glimpse I have had into clinical work tells me that feeling will continue. I will be there for people when they most need help. I will have answers and solutions, and at other times at least answers and maybe comfort. … These are all wonderful things. But, as you know, so is a rich home life. … The problem with medical school as an older adult is it coincides too much with those wonderfully rich home life moments. You can be organized and efficient, but you will miss many of those things. … On the other hand it can be done. I know a woman in her 40s with two kids (8, 12) who did a marvelous job at medical school (after leaving research). But she, like all of us, made sacrifices. Spend more time shadowing and talking to people about the education and training process. … I never say someone is too old, but I don't always encounter people interested in medicine who also get so much out of home-making and child-rearing. That is a lot to give up.

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  5. Well, if you feel it's your calling and you're not worried about childcare or money, then why not. You're going to get older either way, and you have a choice about whether you spend that time doing something you love vs. spending it doing something else. I was "old" (i.e. 29) when I started MD-PhD, and have no regrets thus far. I've met plenty of people on similar trajectories along the way. And yes, it's very popular and PC to tell people to do PA or nursing school instead. For me that would have been the wrong choice, and even with the changes that are coming to medicine, you still end up with a pretty different career.

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  6. I'm an NP. I work three days a week doing home visits and I'm usually done by 2-3 so I have time for school pick up, appointments, practices and all of the evening Mom stuff I enjoy. Two days a week I work in family practice and even though the doors close at 5 and I'm great about running on schedule I still have tons to do so I either bring it home with me or stay and get it done til 6:30 or 7. I have one high schooler and even with those two days a week it makes things crazy and she will admit (although reluctantly because she doesn't like to stress me out) that she misses me on those evenings and the house is quiet (husband has long commute til 6-7 also). With NP school I was able to go part-time for 3 years and still enjoyed most of all the mom things I wanted to enjoy i.e. coached a sports team, volunteered, home a lot during summer. Just wanted to throw that part of the story out there. I respect all here who do manage to do it all and if you have a passion to be an MD then you simply must do it. I have a family member who is an MD and watched that process and honestly didn't know if I could make it all work. I am glad I chose the life I did. I see my own panel of patients and consult when necessary of course so I feel I have the best of both worlds on most days.

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    1. I worked as a nurse aide for 8 yrs before getting my RN license. I loved it but it is back breaking work. I love being a home health RN except the paperwork is a killer--about 24 pgs for each admission. I'd like to go to med school but we have 5 kids under age 11. So , I cannot do it. I like the capacity of the RN because I can do so many different things but would like to expand this capacity. It would be nice to write my own orders instead of playing phone tag with Dr. offices all day. My NP friend says she could never go back to being just an RN. Has the NP position been satisfying enough over a desire for being an MD/DO?
      Can you list some pros/cons between RN vs NP?
      Thanks!

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  7. I'm 30 and also want a career in medicine...I also have 2 kids (7 and 2) and we are planning on having a 3rd - however, I want to start my training asap because of this very issue of age. Luckily I will be doing it (hopefully, if I get in) in New Zealand where the cost of med school is subsidized ($14K/year), but its also 6 years instead of 4. And luckily, my husband earns enough money for us to easily hire a full-time nanny and maintain a good lifestyle.

    For me, I had the exact same fears - I love hanging out with my kids, having dinner ready and all but I also have this pull that keeps me wanting more. That being said, I think if you want it, you should try for it sooner rather than later. Your kids will ALWAYS want and need you (until at least they are off on their own). I don't think there is ever a really perfect time to balance medical school and kids - the challenges and their needs change a lot with age.

    Personally, I like caring for my kids when they are very little (babies/toddlers) but then think I could manage med school while they are young to big kids and hopefully be done with my training by the time they are in high school so that I could be there for that too.

    Whatever you decide, all the best!

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    1. Thanks for your response! I totally relate to what you are saying. I am very happy with my life right now but feel that I also have another purpose to fulfill on this earth. I wish you all the best too!

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  8. Thank you everyone for your insightful responses. I really appreciate it and have a lot of food for thought.

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  9. My mom is an OB/GYN. She NEVER came home earlier than 8PM 6 days of the week, and I NEVER saw her in the mornings because she was already gone. My dad, an internal medicine doc, was the one who made breakfast, and cooked dinner, but in the end we were mostly raised by our babysitters/nannys/housekeepers throughout childhood. As you might expect, I had a MUCH better relationship with my Dad than my Mom growing up. Just something to think about.. it sounds like your family is important to you and it's working right now - why jeopardize that?

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    1. Thank you for this insight. I'm in a similar position as the author of this post, so I've been following these comments. My interest is obgyn, so your comment is really helpful. I have been trying to find an real-life account of an obgyn's lifestyle so I can figure out if it would be detrimental to my family.

      Just out of curiosity -- did you end up going into medicine yourself? If so, what specialty? Thank you!

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