I want to be a doctor!

I have a good perspective on what you might have to deal with.

I was a traditional student, straight from high school, state college (in 4 years), straight to med school (4 years), and 3 years of residency. I’m 30 years old now and just starting to practice as an attending.

I was part of the admissions committee my senior year of medical school (at a state school), so here is my advice. First of all, you would probably not be granted an interview or even a secondary application the way things stand now, with a college transcript from 1993-1997. Quite frankly, there is no way you would be able to ‘review’ enough material in self study over a one year time and do well enough on the MCAT to overcome that red flag on you application. That being said, I had classmates in medical school who were 35-40 years old when we started.

You absolutely are going to have to go back and retake a bunch of science courses at the college level as a post-bac. Particularly, gen chemistry, organic chem, and physics. You can possibly get by without taking a basic biology class, but any other upper level bio classes you wanted to take wouldn’t hurt. One of my residency classmates had a career as a lobbyist in DC prior to going to med school. His undergrad degree was Political Science. But he had to go back and do Post-bac classes before even thinking of applying.

Then get into a review course for the MCAT (Kaplan et al). You will need directed instruction on taking this test that you will not be able to get using self-study.

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re ready to apply. You should apply to every single school in your state and to any private schools you’re willing to move to. You will have to cast a wide net with your non-traditional application. As others have said, it is almost a waste of time to apply to out-of-state public schools. As an example, I had a 3.8 GPA, 36 MCAT, Varsity Athlete and I couldn’t even get an interview at Univ of Florida despite appealing their original decision because I was a Georgia resident at the time (UF was the closest medical school to my hometown, too). Also, I’ll reiterate what several others have said… this is an expensive endeavor; thousands of dollars just to apply, not to mention travel.

Your free time as a medical student and resident will be very limited. But that being said, you can make what you want of you time there. Do you mind being bottom of your class, getting C’s in your courses? Do you have aspirations of being a Neurosurgeon, or would you be happy as a Family Doc or Pediatrician? Can you afford to be making -$40,000 a year as a student and +$40,000 as a resident (racking up $100,000 in debt) and then making $60,000/year as a small town Family Doc?

If you have any other questions, I’ll be glad to answer them if I can. This is just my initial reaction to your situation.

Nothing to add except that I like this blog by a woman who went to med school somewhat later in life. She was out of undergrad a few years, I think, and realized, “I should have gone to medical school.” So she did. However, she didn’t get married and have her kid until she was already out of residency.

Again, not much to add, but a great resource is studentdoctor.net. It has a great board for non-trad students.

I need to hijack for a minute to speak my piece. I find the first part of your post rather offensive. “Grunt” does not have a positive connotation and nurses have worked really hard to NOT be viewed this way.

I’d also like to know why people think that all nurses do is take orders fromd Dr’s?
I’ve spent the last 5 years in a job with autonomy and I only call the MD to update them as needed. Yes it’s true that they need to sign physician orders to keep their patients on our program but I have my own license and fully capable to use my own brain. Many times the docs ask ME what the best thing to do is. There are plenty of jobs in the nursing field that do not require an RN to take day to day orders from an MD. Too often, people think of the typical hospital nurse when they think of nursing in general. Nurses are also teachers, scientists, salespeople, researchers, etc.

As for the OP, I once thought about medical school too and decided I didn’t want to give up my life for 8 years. It’s really a personal decision and you have to follow your heart as well as do what is best for your family. Good luck.

My sister is a nurse - she’s a nursing administrator. She gives orders to the doctors - she is in charge of scheduling the OR at a small town hospital. She also does all the OR budgeting.

Her husband is a CRNA at the same small town hospital. With no anetheisologist within 60 miles and attending surgeons not up on passing gas, he is the guy.

I haven’t had time to read all posts, so apologies if I’m repeating anyone.

I am a non-medical person married to a doctor. We’ve been together since she was in residency. Do not undersestimate the toll residency, fellowship, and career in general will take on your relationship. You will have little time together, and the stress will be very high. Doctors are notorious for having work-life boundary issues (a phone call at 8:30 pm to discuss the schedule? Why not? Pre-empting a family trip or planned “date night” to finish a research paper? No time like the present!) I love my wife beyond all measure, but there were times I was ready to pack it in. Being about the fifth priority for her got old fast. (And we do not have children)

Someone upthread mentioned that you’ll likely have to move for school and residency. Yeah, I didn’t exactly like that part. Having to haul my ass cross-country and take a new job in a panic didn’t exactly do wonders for my career path. How about I leave this management position, and take a low-level programming job because it’s what I can find in a hurry? As a husband, being unemployed in a strange city (in my case, New York) and scrambling for anything remotely related to my career field sucked beyond belief.

Make sure your husband is on board with this. He will probably support you because he loves you, but it’s going to be a kick to the balls for him too.

Good luck! Vet school is even harder to get into the Med School.

You might be interested in this board also - old pre-meds, not that you’re old, but the board is aimed at non-traditional med students in general. There is a lot of helpful advice there.

I hate to join in as another raindrop in this parade, but med-school is perhaps even more ungodly expensive than others have let on and is getting worse.

Think along the lines of $300 K including interest for most private schools, which, to be frank, is the only likely option.

Also, to be brief, there are fundamental changes afloat in the debt repayment and residency training funding that literally keep me up at night. For example, the former, “220/20” rule said that if your loan repayment was more than 20% of your income and your income minus loan repayments were less than 220% of the poverty line, you could defer your loan repayment until after residency. That exception is still in place via rules, but as of this year it is no longer legislatively in place and that rule is set to expire on November 1st of this year. In all honesty, there are few people that relish the thought of trying to make it through residency on $25K a year post tax. At 80 hours a week, one would be financially better off at McDonalds.

In addition to scheduling a budget cut of 10.7% for Medicare reimbursement rates (the last raise in rates hasn’t been since 2003 and that’s in uncorrected dollars, in real dollars the compensation has been cut for many years now), the Bush administration has pulled the, “Medicare Training Grant” out of Medicare although congress has forced it back in before. If either of these changes were to take place, the disruption to many public hospitals and the graduate medical training programs would be enormous. The glut of current training spots could quickly transition to yet another step of cut-throat competition, this time after having invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and four years into an education. In other words, the federal government owns your ass and your debt-load puts you at their mercy. The master promisory note that you sign for the loans doesn’t freeze training spots, salaries, or repayment terms in place, just that you definitely owe the money back somehow.

All in all, what makes you so motivated to want to go into medicine? I’m certain that you have more substantial motivations than having watched, House M.D., but given my experience (and other’s) with the admissions process my initial reaction was, “hey, that’s not even funny!” To an admissions committee, you’ll need to provide a very eloquent explanation of your motivations and have concrete examples of relevant experience to back up those positions.

I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer here. I’m a first year and on the whole I’ve had a lot of, “fun,” and found everythin very interesting, but even now I have terrible doubts about the security of the career choice. It’s hard to smile on your way to the financial aid office to rack up another $65 K in loans for a year of tuition and living expenses when your classmates are managing to land real and seemingly interesting and useful positions out of undergrad.

Lots of harsh reality in this thread, but it was what I wanted and needed to hear. Why the urge to become a doctor? Well, to sum up: I’m somewhat bored/discontent with my job and I’m already facing a pretty major life change. I feel I could do something much more challenging.

I also feel I somewhat screwed myself by stopping after undergraduate studies. However, it would have been a mistake for me to continue at the time, so I don’t regret taking my degree and running with it when I did. Talk about youth being wasted on the young: if I could have the opportunity of going to college on my parent’s dime again, I would make so much more of it now than I did at the time.

I love working with scientists and the entire research/science aspect of my current job. I love solving puzzles and fixing problems and have long been interested in medicine and am a bit of an armchair diagnostician. Most of the time when I go to the doctor I already know exactly what is wrong and what they’ll do to fix it - the entire visit feels like a formality and frankly there have been times when I’ve resented it. I have observed my doctors with some regret that the difference between them and me basically comes down to formal education and training and not much else.

But upthread, when Crescend said “When you’ve been working the last 30 hours, haven’t seen your kids awake for nearly a week, and your hands are shaking, questions like “What the hell am I doing this for” start popping up. You’d better have a good answer,” well, that hit a nerve. It obviously takes some serious grit, drive and determination to take this path. I obviously have to figure out how badly I want it - if I could make some other kind of change to my career that would ultimately make me happier, then that’s the path I need to follow. Do I have a good enough answer to Crescend’s question? Right now I don’t think I do. My current general practitioner took several months off for what I have surmised was a major depressive episode. My general practitioner before that left her practice to pursue cosmetics and dermatology. I can only see these as warning signs.

I hate feeling like I wasted my brain and my potential. I know I want a change and a challenge. I know I have a bit of talent. But what I don’t know is if this is the right thing to do or even worth doing at all. To be honest the answers in this thread are making me seriously doubt it. Personal happiness is CRUCIAL to me, I have spent lots of time in therapy dealing with childhood abuse and bipolar type II disorder. I am as happy now as I can remember being. This is hugely motivating - it makes me feel strong and want to achieve my dreams - but I don’t want to sacrifice my happiness or my family’s happiness to do so. Will I be happier striving for this goal or won’t I? This is the ultimate consideration for me.

You are entering a period of discernment: you are trying to figure out what your calling in life is. 20 years ago, I thought I was being called to the Anglican Priesthood. My Diocese thought otherwise, and that failed process led to a career in Laboratory Medicine. 8 years ago, after spending 6 working in hospital labs, I revisited the call to ordination, and decided that I should pursue something else instead. I didn’t even work in that last lab a year before I was hired into an associated research lab, where I’ve been ever since. In August, I will graduate with an MS in Biochemistry.

The point is that you may be happier doing something other than what you think, but you won’t know that until you get there. I went through a lot of thinking, examining myself and asking a lot of questions of myself and others. I am now entering another phase of intense discernment as I weigh the cost (in time and energy away from my family) of pursuing a PhD vs. eventually teaching in an MT program or being a bench jockey for the rest of my career. I wanted to be an MD many years ago, but having seen med students, fellows and practitioners for the last 7 years I can say I’m glad I didn’t. I could have made a decent MD, but I am good at what I do now and I have time for other pursuits, the MS included. Despite never having gone to Seminary and been ordained, I have followed a lay ministry that has been rewarding in its own way.

You have received a lot of valuable information and insight in this thread. Keep asking and exploring until you find the best direction to go in, and be prepared to accept that it won’t be where you think it ought to be, if that comes to pass. I don’t sign as The Rev. Vlad/Igor or Vlad/Igor, MD because I am:

Vlad/Igor, BS MT(ASCP).

I think Vlad/Igor had a very valuable comment. We’re not trying to scare you off of it if you love it and you’re confident it is what you would like to pursue, but don’t let disaffection with your current job be the driving force in this.

In other words, don’t just make medicine the default choice for, “something else,” like, “Get lunch,” is the default option on those hokey gag magnetic, “decision making,” pendulums.


If you want to be a doctor then choose some medical school which does not just train you on the traditional principles but also give you technological touch along-with providing excellent culture. I myself have studied from Windsor, Caribbean Medical School and then I got employed here. See it is good sign that university hires its own students, it is a symbol that university believes in the quality of the students it is producing. There are numerous medical schools but choosing a best mixture of diverse culture and education, nurtures you the most.

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