Becoming a physician is a long and expensive process, so it’s important to make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons. Here are 5 reasons you should re-think your decision.
1) You Want To Be Rich
Yes, on paper a well established attending physician does make a good amount of money. But if this is your sole reason to become a doctor, you seriously need to reconsider. To get to the point of being an established attending you have to sacrifice a lot of money and time upfront. Assuming you follow a traditional path, you’ll be doing 4 years of college, 4 years of med school, 3-7 years of residency and 1-2 years of fellowship before getting there. Unless you have scholarships or rich parents, you’ll be taking on 200-500k in debt which will accrue interest until you pay it off. Once you are an attending, you are an employee which means you will be taxed in the highest bracket as well. So be careful and consider these factors before you decide to become a doctor for the money.
2) You Want Status/Prestige
Doctors used to be looked up to as heroes and god’s workers by some. Although there is still some respect for physicians, things are not the way they used to be. Big egos and Type A personalities are still attracted to medical school but they don’t get the status/prestige at the level they expected. These days, anybody calls themselves a doctor and puts on the expert hat on whatever topic they choose. Some are licensed PHDs, some find a way to get a degree that gives them the title of doctor (ie. doctor of philosophy) without clarifying their level of expertise. They advertise themselves as doctors on social media and locally, taking away from that prestige pie. Nurse practitioners and RNs as well as PAs are being given more independence and autonomy, which is great for them but when it comes to certain specialties, the seperation between the these titles and an MD is becoming less and less so. If you have such a big ego or insecurities that cause you to seek out status and validation in everything you do, there are bigger problems you need to deal with. But the answer to this need is certainly not being a doctor, at least not at the level it used to be.
3) You Want Instant Gratification
In today’s social media world, where everybody online is a millionaire and constantly happy, you’ll be surprised to know that being/becoming a doctor is not like that. There are a few big moments like getting into medical school or matching to residency which will bring these high feelings of gratification. Other than that, it’s about finding the joy in the monotonous, and doing a lot of things you don’t want to do until you get to that point. You have to find a way to enjoy this time as well, as these are the formative years of your life and you should have some fun memories to look back on. It is a long road and your feelings of gratification will come in a slow drip over time. Make sure that the juice is worth the squeeze for you.
4) You Want To Help People
Obviously wanting to help people is something every doctor-to-be should want to do. But the reality is, the actual “helping people” part is only 20-30% of the job. Most of it, much to the dismay of current physicians, is documentation, studying and administrative work that you have no desire to do. Dealing with tough patients, their families and with people you don’t like working with is another factor. There are tons of ways to help people without becoming a doctor. Other roles in healthcare, donating to charity with a normal job, volunteering, and just being a good person overall can provide that fix. Or you can become an instagram influencer and save the world that way.
5) You Want Autonomy
Once you become an attending, you are the leader of the team and “top of the hierarchy”. There are levels to this game however. Unless you have the capital to have an entirely independent practice, you are working on someone’s else’s terms. The hospital controls your shift work, OR time, when you are on call, when/how much vacation you get. In the trenches, you are also working with other specialties and individuals. You are not their number one priority, they have their own lives to be concerned with. If you are waiting for an x-ray or report to come back before making your next decision, you will wait until the radiologist or lab takes time to do it. There may be a lot of waiting around and doing nothing which can be very frustrating. You do have relatively more independence and autonomy as a physician compared to other jobs, but you are really never “on your own”.