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mew

Admitted but having second thoughts about med school

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I was accepted to U of T in May, but I've only been anxious since then, not excited, and that's developed into a major case of cold feet. Long story short I feel like I'm not going to be able to handle med school/residency/actually being an attending, both academically and psychologically, and that it's better to walk away now when the only thing I'll lose is a $1000 deposit and not $40 000 per year in tuition and living expenses. I'm so tired of feeling down about this- I just achieved my dream!- but instead feel defeated and jaded already, and that doesn't seem like a good prognostic sign wrt a career in medicine. My anxiety is compounded by the fact that I haven't been able to find people in medicine that actually seem happy to be there- I've spoken to 4 attendings (1 peds, 3 FM) about this in since getting in and all of them have said that I should have chosen another field and that if I continue I should expect to be miserable at least the next 6-9 years. I thought I went into medicine for the right reasons but it doesn't seem like that will matter.

Has anybody worked through these types of feelings before? Or does anybody have suggestions on where to go or who to talk to?

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In advance to people who are going to reply to this thread, before you start tearing into it;

I think we've all heard enough about people regretting medicine as a career choice that to push the ambivalents into it with a generalized "oh just try it you'll be fine" attitude is becoming more and more disingenuous. Yes it feels weird to most of us that a person might choose to opt out after being accepted, but the merits and fortune of admission aside, we should start with the stance that the people who are oscillating on these decisions are capable of mature and intelligent analysis and have reached out after doing much of it to no clear conclusion.

That being said OP, I'm too early in the game to say anything other than good luck figuring it out. Do try looking up articles/blog posts for both sides of the issue, there are multiple out there. You might find some old forum posts on here also about the journey. For what it's worth, a few of my friends made the decision not to go into medicine after being accepted and they are now doing fine. They had solid alternate plans, though.

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mew, I just want to support you in the sense that your feelings of cold feet must not be that uncommon. I also had a few moments of fleeting doubt, the most recent which came after reading posts in the Attrition Rates in Med School thread. It was the closest I've been to hearing someone I know express dissatisfaction with the career (I don't have much access to residents/staff, so the familiar users here are as personal as it gets for me).

But there isn't anything else I can imagine myself doing that would be comparable to what I think this career entails. This may be a naive thought, but it gets me through lol. Sorry that I was of zero help, but I hope you find the courage to be confident with whatever decision you make!

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I would agree with Hanmari above. I think if you have done your research and taken a look at other links and posts in the forum, I don't think many people are "happy" per se with their choice in medicine as a career during residency and afterwards, but are content with what they have after such a long road to get to where they are. The problem becomes as maybe people put it, once you start accumulating debt it's very hard to pay off and with little other alternatives that push you forward. For instance, if you quit medical school without matching, there are few careers that may lend itself to the "potential" salary of a physician. That keeps people in the game. 

If you're an engineer, accountant, pharmacist before med then you have some options for potential income if you choose to quit or forgo the match. The MD degree itself, once obtained, is practically useless - it only allows you to graduate into more training. It does not have any other utility. The problem lies in CaRMS, where that really determines the type of medicine you're allowed or want to practice. 

If I had to choose again, I don't think I would have necessarily done medical school - it would prefer potentially better hours and equal stress becoming an accountant or engineer.  You are smart to think of this critically.  I may have 5-6 more years to go including fellowship, and I'm a resident - this has really been the journey of 12 years and more. It is really a marathon and sometimes it is really, really hard to keep going. Other residents and staff will echo my thoughts here, and I think it's important to examine if you're going to be ok starting the race with limited to no chance of stopping for this length of time. 

 

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This is a major decision and either way, you should make sure it is as informed as possible. I appreciate this is difficult given you have not actually spent time working in the field as of yet, but if you have already confirmed your acceptance, perhaps your Student Affairs office could be of help. I'm sure they could introduce you to many physician advisors who find their careers rewarding despite the hard work. I've been in this field for many years, and although burnout is certainly a problem, and there are people who question if they'd go into medicine again if given the choice, I've never met anyone who would tell newly-accepted students that they are making a mistake to go into medicine.

The other factor is that it's unclear whether you have a plan B / alternate career at hand. All fields of work have their challenges and dissatisfactions; I'm sure you can find people unhappy with their work anywhere you go, and likely with greater concerns about job security.

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Many people who are unhappy, often times havent done other careers. I'm pretty sure more than 50% of my class have never held real jobs. Maybe only 10% have had actual careers more than just a year etc..

At least with medicine and the right specialty I will make more than most people and have flexibility. Primary care jobs that allow one to work 3 days(full) a week and make 100k exist and especially if willing to go rural or locums.  So if I get miserable or more jaded then I am, guess what? I'll stop working so much and dial it back. 

Food for thought. Medicine has its ups and downs but very few things touch the flexibility and payoff if you are a flexible and realistic person.

 

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1 minute ago, JohnGrisham said:

Many people who are unhappy, often times havent done other careers. I'm pretty sure more than 50% of my class have never held real jobs. Maybe only 10% have had actual careers more than just a year etc..

At least with medicine and the right specialty I will make more than most people and have flexibility. Primary care jobs that allow one to work 3 days(full) a week and make 100k exist and especially if willing to go rural or locums.  So if I get miserable or more jaded then I am, guess what? I'll stop working so much and dial it back. 

Food for thought. Medicine has its ups and downs but very few things touch the flexibility and payoff if you are a flexible and realistic person.

 

Which jobs would that be? I'm really curious as I just got accepted and I'm also getting somewhat cold feet... Everyone I talk to seem unhappy, taking sick leave or whole sabbaticals, and saying they would chose something else if they had to make the choice again. I think most of it is due to the gruelling working hours, hence my interest in your statement.

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I won't be so flippant as to say just try it out, but I would ask you to try to take a step back and look at your situation objectively. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is your happiness, and I do think there are many paths withing medicine that can be fulfilling for a wide variety of people; I also think it's incredibly easy to make numerous small sacrifices for dubious goals that accumulate to an overall frustrating life. 

I've absolutely experienced that miserable feeling you're describing, few people get to experience being berated by someone at 4am because you're still on the low end of the totem pole in your mid twenties. And there are a ton of people in my med school class who pushed themselves to do research in med school on top of that, put time in to networking, over-studied for every test, only to continue the cycle for another 6 years of residency.

You don't have to do that if that's not your picture of happiness though. I was initially pushing for a difficult specialty and I would feel anxious every second I wasn't working on my research project, I was attending rounds for that specialty and doing additional clinic on top of normal school duties, and I honestly felt terrible. Then I realized that this doesn't have to be my life, my peers from high school who I was jealous of treated their jobs like a job and there was no reason I had to let it consume my life. I studied to around the median, I played sports and video games instead of researching, and I got in to a fantastic community family medicine program. And now my average days are 9-4 with some charting on either end and the occasional home call. And while I found a niche I'm really excited to pursue full time, I know someone who recently graduated and makes 80k a year off one hard day of work per week - something you won't find in any other field and allows him to pursue his true passions.

So that's where I'd ask you to be objective. Whatever career you're comparing medical school to, don't compare it to the jaded or overworked staff you never hope to be. Compare it to what you, with your values, would do with that degree. I can't guarantee it's for everyone, but if you've come this far there's a very strong chance you find something that works for you better on many levels than most alternatives.

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Just now, jul059 said:

Which jobs would that be? I'm really curious as I just got accepted and I'm also getting somewhat cold feet... Everyone I talk to seem unhappy, taking sick leave or whole sabbaticals, and saying they would chose something else if they had to make the choice again. I think most of it is due to the gruelling working hours, hence my interest in your statement.

Primary care as he mentioned can allow you to work a few days per week, especially with a group practice or in certain locums. In my example above, you can take urgent care/ER shifts basically as often as you want. Basically just find something where you aren't dependent on working for OR time, or need to cover call - for me the vast majority of those opportunities seemed to show up in family medicine and it's branches, but I've also seen similar from peds and psych

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2 minutes ago, Rorzo said:

Primary care as he mentioned can allow you to work a few days per week, especially with a group practice or in certain locums. In my example above, you can take urgent care/ER shifts basically as often as you want. Basically just find something where you aren't dependent on working for OR time, or need to cover call - for me the vast majority of those opportunities seemed to show up in family medicine and it's branches, but I've also seen similar from peds and psych

Thanks. How and when do you actually find those things out? Also, that person who makes 80k, what kind of specialty does he/she works in?

I can see that medicine can somewhat be tailored to your needs, but it's very unclear to me what are the barriers that you have to work around to make it work. You can't just read a book about it!

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Just now, jul059 said:

Thanks. How and when do you actually find those things out? Also, that person who makes 80k, what kind of specialty does he/she works in?

I can see that medicine can somewhat be tailored to your needs, but it's very unclear to me what are the barriers that you have to work around to make it work. You can't just read a book about it!

Family medicine, and job offers will come up in residency. Part of the reason I ended up in family is that you have so much flexibility. Once you're staff, the only barriers you have to work around are the ones you put up yourself. Don't want to take call? Don't want to work Tuesdays? Never want to run a clinic? That's all your choice, yeah it will limit your job options and salary potential, but you're the boss and there's nothing stopping you from putting yourself in a situation you want to be in

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2 hours ago, Hanmari said:

Do try looking up articles/blog posts for both sides of the issue, there are multiple out there. You might find some old forum posts on here also about the journey. For what it's worth, a few of my friends made the decision not to go into medicine after being accepted and they are now doing fine. They had solid alternate plans, though.

 

1 hour ago, distressedpremed said:

I would agree with Hanmari above. I think if you have done your research and taken a look at other links and posts in the forum, I don't think many people are "happy" per se with their choice in medicine as a career during residency and afterwards, but are content with what they have after such a long road to get to where they are. The problem becomes as maybe people put it, once you start accumulating debt it's very hard to pay off and with little other alternatives that push you forward. For instance, if you quit medical school without matching, there are few careers that may lend itself to the "potential" salary of a physician. That keeps people in the game. 

If you're an engineer, accountant, pharmacist before med then you have some options for potential income if you choose to quit or forgo the match. The MD degree itself, once obtained, is practically useless - it only allows you to graduate into more training. It does not have any other utility. The problem lies in CaRMS, where that really determines the type of medicine you're allowed or want to practice. 

If I had to choose again, I don't think I would have necessarily done medical school - it would prefer potentially better hours and equal stress becoming an accountant or engineer.  You are smart to think of this critically.  I may have 5-6 more years to go including fellowship, and I'm a resident - this has really been the journey of 12 years and more. It is really a marathon and sometimes it is really, really hard to keep going. Other residents and staff will echo my thoughts here, and I think it's important to examine if you're going to be ok starting the race with limited to no chance of stopping for this length of time. 

I've tried looking stuff up but usually end up feeling more stressed/conflicted because it seems like there are a lot of people who are unhappy and not that many people for whom things end up turning out OK. There's some response bias there for sure but I still don't have much data in support of the other side. I *want* to be happy and excited about going to med school- I worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get here- but there's this pit of dread in my stomach. I was at a family event today and there were a bunch of people who came up to me to say they were proud of me but I just felt guilty for some reason and didn't want to talk about it at all. Part of my apprehension is that I had to choose between Mac and U of T and feel like I made the wrong choice. I'm scared of U of T's workload and culture. My undergrad was relatively easy and I don't have any background in things like histology, pharmacology, anatomy, etc, so I'm worried I'll be behind my peers right from the get go and won't be able to handle the volume/pace of workload. I'm seriously worried about failing out.

1 hour ago, Lactic Folly said:

This is a major decision and either way, you should make sure it is as informed as possible. I appreciate this is difficult given you have not actually spent time working in the field as of yet, but if you have already confirmed your acceptance, perhaps your Student Affairs office could be of help. I'm sure they could introduce you to many physician advisors who find their careers rewarding despite the hard work. I've been in this field for many years, and although burnout is certainly a problem, and there are people who question if they'd go into medicine again if given the choice, I've never met anyone who would tell newly-accepted students that they are making a mistake to go into medicine.

The other factor is that it's unclear whether you have a plan B / alternate career at hand. All fields of work have their challenges and dissatisfactions; I'm sure you can find people unhappy with their work anywhere you go, and likely with greater concerns about job security.

 

1 hour ago, JohnGrisham said:

Many people who are unhappy, often times havent done other careers. I'm pretty sure more than 50% of my class have never held real jobs. Maybe only 10% have had actual careers more than just a year etc..

At least with medicine and the right specialty I will make more than most people and have flexibility. Primary care jobs that allow one to work 3 days(full) a week and make 100k exist and especially if willing to go rural or locums.  So if I get miserable or more jaded then I am, guess what? I'll stop working so much and dial it back. 

Food for thought. Medicine has its ups and downs but very few things touch the flexibility and payoff if you are a flexible and realistic person.

 

Alternate plan is something to consider for sure- I don't have one. I'm currently registered for a thesis MSc in something I'm very passionate about (which was originally my back up plan if I didn't get into med) but beyond that I have no idea what I'd do. I'm thinking of applying for teacher's college or doing a second undergrad in engineering. I have diverse and long-term work experience but nothing that constitutes a "career" I can fall back on. I'd love to get a deferral for a year and really figure everything out but I don't think this constitutes "exceptional circumstances" as required for U of T.

The marathon is something that scares me too. I'm 23 now, so I've got plenty of life ahead of me. But there are also other things I want to do with my life, like meet a partner and raise a family, and I don't know how realistic those things are in medicine. The idea of not having any income whatsoever until I'm 27 is really uncomfortable to me. The idea of not being able to have a life or hobbies or friends until I'm 30 is depressing. What's strange is that none of this is new information- I was well aware that this is what I was signing up for and decided to go into medicine anyway. I was not at all ambivalent about medicine until I actually got my acceptance.

I am prone to depression and it's totally possible that I'm just in a downswing which is causing this fatalistic thinking. It's also possible that this is my impostor syndrome boomeranging back. I guess I don't really have to make a decision until tuition fees are due at the end of August, so I can kick the can down the road a little bit, but I feel kind of low-key distressed about all this given how new and out of character these feelings are for me. 

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It would probably be a good idea to talk to a counsellor about this. You don't want to do anything rash. At the least, dealing with these feelings will help you be more successful in whatever path you choose.

Regarding the positive side of medicine - you can go on any university's faculty of medicine website and see story after story about alumni and staff who are doing great things, making a difference and expressing satisfaction with their work. In an entirely nonscientific assessment, it seems that 90-95% of the attending physicians I see around me are married with kids, so it doesn't seem that medicine is an impediment to having a family. Time becomes scarce during training, but I don't think it's accurate to say one can't keep up *any* hobbies, friends, or life outside of work.

How much better will the other options be if you need to continue schooling? Is grad school really an 'income'? How easily would you be able to find a suitable position in a suitable location? Having the 'life' you stated does depend somewhat on that as well.

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54 minutes ago, mew said:

 

I've tried looking stuff up but usually end up feeling more stressed/conflicted because it seems like there are a lot of people who are unhappy and not that many people for whom things end up turning out OK. There's some response bias there for sure but I still don't have much data in support of the other side. I *want* to be happy and excited about going to med school- I worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get here- but there's this pit of dread in my stomach. I was at a family event today and there were a bunch of people who came up to me to say they were proud of me but I just felt guilty for some reason and didn't want to talk about it at all. Part of my apprehension is that I had to choose between Mac and U of T and feel like I made the wrong choice. I'm scared of U of T's workload and culture. My undergrad was relatively easy and I don't have any background in things like histology, pharmacology, anatomy, etc, so I'm worried I'll be behind my peers right from the get go and won't be able to handle the volume/pace of workload. I'm seriously worried about failing out.

 

Alternate plan is something to consider for sure- I don't have one. I'm currently registered for a thesis MSc in something I'm very passionate about (which was originally my back up plan if I didn't get into med) but beyond that I have no idea what I'd do. I'm thinking of applying for teacher's college or doing a second undergrad in engineering. I have diverse and long-term work experience but nothing that constitutes a "career" I can fall back on. I'd love to get a deferral for a year and really figure everything out but I don't think this constitutes "exceptional circumstances" as required for U of T.

The marathon is something that scares me too. I'm 23 now, so I've got plenty of life ahead of me. But there are also other things I want to do with my life, like meet a partner and raise a family, and I don't know how realistic those things are in medicine. The idea of not having any income whatsoever until I'm 27 is really uncomfortable to me. The idea of not being able to have a life or hobbies or friends until I'm 30 is depressing. What's strange is that none of this is new information- I was well aware that this is what I was signing up for and decided to go into medicine anyway. I was not at all ambivalent about medicine until I actually got my acceptance.

I am prone to depression and it's totally possible that I'm just in a downswing which is causing this fatalistic thinking. It's also possible that this is my impostor syndrome boomeranging back. I guess I don't really have to make a decision until tuition fees are due at the end of August, so I can kick the can down the road a little bit, but I feel kind of low-key distressed about all this given how new and out of character these feelings are for me. 

 

I totally see your sentiment about how  there are so many individuals who are unhappy with medicine, but I honestly feel that happiness and joy  is an inner state, more so than an outer state.  With any career, including medicine, there will be various difficulties, doubts, uncertainties, but the key is  to accept those uncertainties, and to have faith and trust that you are going to make it and to not to dwell too much on the negatives but embrace the positives ( I maybe very naive though, as I will only start medicine in  2 weeks, but I know a LOT of people who are very satisfied with medicine despite it's challenges and difficulties).  Don't dwell on the thought that you may fail out, instead focus on the thought that you got into two schools for a reason and you have more than what it takes to succeed.  Your thoughts really do determine your behaviour. I also got into several schools, and I was concerned that I made the wrong decision by choosing a 3 year program because I think a 4 year program gives you the time to learn and have strong background. So I think you made the right choice by choosing a 4 year year program, it gives you Summers off to cool off and travel and to enjoy life.

Just like you, I was also concerned about how difficult it is that I won't have any income until I'm 26, but I decided to not dwell on that thought and to learn to be content with a simple life style and to be very content/ happy and enjoy what I have in the moment.  I also won't forsake my hobbies, family or friends during medicine,  and I won't let medicine ever become one of the main priorities in my life or ever consume me. I will always schedule time to spend with the people that I love, and my family and friends and to take care of myself physically / emotionally/ mentally/spiritually/ relationally .  I don't think it is wise to let a career consume you so make sure you stay balanced in all areas of your life in med school: academically/ career wise, in your relationships, in your spiritual/emotional/mental well being.

 

 

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A lot can be said here, some excellent points already raised.

I am not in the position to write an extensive reply at this time, but can relate to some of what you've shared, so feel free to PM me if you'd like.

Gradually re-orienting yourself towards making self-care a priority, identifying and striving to live in alignment with your personal values, as well as managing expectations of yourself and your personal/professional life will all likely be quite beneficial for you--this is something all of us--myself included, are constantly striving to get a handle on as this is a natural part of life. The rigours of the pursuit of medicine, the training process and elements of the culture of medicine can all certainly intensify this process, but need not do so.

At the end of the day, medicine is just a job. All you have to do is find the area within it that you find the day-to-day work tolerable, then just rinse/repeat as you provide a service to others and progressively become financially secure, while pursuing your other interests.

The medicalschool and medicine subreddlts may have much more discussion for you to search through.

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There have definitely been some amazing perspectives here, and I think you’ve gotten some great advice. I definitely agree with what others have said about reaching out to your school resources and seeing if they have someone you can talk to about this decision. 

I’m fairly junior (starting residency in two weeks) but I definitely would tell my past self to go to medical school if I had the opportunity. There have been additional frustrations and headaches for me along the way, but I very much feel like this decision was the right one for me and I am very happy with the path I have chosen. My residency program is very lifestyle-friendly and I’m really looking forward to a flexible career in family medicine.

It hasn’t always been easy, but for me it has been worth it. For lots of people, they find out that they don’t feel it was worth it. None of us can tell you which direction your doubts will play out, which is why I think it’d be really helpful for you to speak with someone in person. 

I can say that deciding to keep my life outside of medicine as normal as possible has been a big deal for making this whole thing easier. I’ve refused to let medicine overtake my whole life or significantly alter our family goals (even though plenty of people think I’m nuts for adding two kids during my training) so I’ve managed to keep the important parts of my identity untouched. To me, that’s been a very important part of why this process hasn’t been so overwhelming. Don’t feel like it has to be all or nothing with medicine. It is possible to have a life and be a medical trainee too. 

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If you ask me, the road is tough and stressful if you end up being interested in a specialty that either has long work hours or is very competitive to get in. If you feel like you can be happy with family medicine, psych, peds or path, then i wouldn't sweat it. 

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7 hours ago, Edict said:

If you ask me, the road is tough and stressful if you end up being interested in a specialty that either has long work hours or is very competitive to get in. If you feel like you can be happy with family medicine, psych, peds or path, then i wouldn't sweat it. 

This too. 

I came into med school planning to do FM. Considered OB/gyn very seriously for a while (still love it) and briefly considered emerg but decided a five year residency isn’t for me, and figure that the amount of OB/gyn I can do as a family doc is sufficient. Plus I can (try to) do a +1 EM if I decide I still really want to do emerg later. 

But if I were sitting here staring down the barrel of a five year gen surg residency right now instead of a pretty chill FM program, my thoughts on this topic might be different. 

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I will chime in here. I would encourage you to talk with someone. To give you some perspective, it took me 5 years to get into McMaster (after being granted interviews the last 4 years I applied) . It was my dream school and the only one I applied to. I was too afraid to write the MCAT because I was a non-traditional student and I was so intimidated by what you had to know in science, chemistry and physics and I talked myself out of writing it  and of course it narrowed down my choices for which school I could apply to.  I was a teacher before I was accepted into medicine. I graduated from my 5 year residency when I was 33. The best friends I have are the ones I made in med school. I had the time of my life in medical school and why- likely because as med students you have so much in common and one would hope there is a genuine degree of caring for your fellow classmates and the competitiveness of getting in was behind me and I was not interested in going after a super competitive speciality.  I met my significant other as an intern and I was in a long distance relationship for over 3 years. I found ways of making it work including transferring programs (cities) so I could live with my husband.

I think some of the negativity about medicine may come from being talking to people on the front lines and as the Ontario government goes, the fact that the MD's of Ont. have not had a contract in over 5 years. It would be easy for me to get caught up in all of this but then it comes back to reflecting on what it took for me to get accepted to my dream school, the sacrifices that got me there and how much I love my job with the autonomy it brings me and how priviledged I feel to be able to help people in the capacity I do.  I treat many people who hate their jobs (from all walks of life) and are struggling because this is what they need to do to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. 

  I saw a patient today who will be able to have life changing treatment soon instead of waiting for another year. I made time to see this patient on a day I usually don't work (trying to arrive at that life-work-working mom balance). The gratitude this patient felt and being able to leave my office "with a plan" made my day.

For me, medicine comes down to making a difference in peoples lives and feeling good about what contributions you can make.  It also means being realistic too about your limitations, what makes you apprehensive and what you can see yourself doing at the end of the day.  There is so much flexibility in medicine and that is what is so great about it.  It can take some time to find your way in medicine and find your niche. I hope you can take some time and think this decision through.   

Edited by 5th time the charm
grammar and spelling

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4 hours ago, Birdy said:

This too. 

I came into med school planning to do FM. Considered OB/gyn very seriously for a while (still love it) and briefly considered emerg but decided a five year residency isn’t for me, and figure that the amount of OB/gyn I can do as a family doc is sufficient. Plus I can (try to) do a +1 EM if I decide I still really want to do emerg later. 

But if I were sitting here staring down the barrel of a five year gen surg residency right now instead of a pretty chill FM program, my thoughts on this topic might be different. 

you are amazing!! 

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4 hours ago, Egg_McMuffin said:

Don't mean to derail the thread....you graduated from residency at 33....so you started med school at 25 after applying 5 times?

makes sense if they have a late birthday and started applying in 3rd year undergrad.

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It is also important to keep in mind that medicine must be a path that allows you to flourish. If you start already counting the number of years you have left, the journey'll be long and fastidious. Its not just about getting a degree... its not suppose to be such a burden, yes it is a long and hard process, but in the end, there has to be enough reward and fulfillment that you can come to the conclusion that was and still worth it. I'm not there yet, but i hope i'll be able to feel proud and happy throughout residency like i did (at certain times) during the first 4 years. I felt that not looking at the finish line too often allowed me to enjoy and learn without to much stress as i was going. 

i like to think of it as a soccer game (since its the world cup!), yes you wanna win, but there are so many things you have to do and accomplish before the win comes. Each step has to bring more and more confidence and fun that'll lead you to your ultimate goal of winning the game. 

 

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