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Hi All,

I know this topic has likely been discussed before but I'm really on the fence. I am currently an RRT, and while I enjoy the work, I am always thinking that I would like to do more. Several years ago I was privileged to interview at U of T for the MD program but was ultimately unsuccessful in getting in. Now that I have been practicing as an RRT for almost 2 years, I am strongly considering trying once again for med school. I have a couple questions:

1. What have been peoples' experiences with attending med school in their 30s (I'm currently 28)? I'm not sure that I look forward to the idea of more tests and studying lol and returning to the "student" status in my 30s when I could potentially be furthering my career as an RRT.

2. I have a cGPA of 3.83 and my wGPA for UofT is 3.91, weighted for Western 3.88. I would have to re-write my MCAT as it is currently more than 5 years old and was the old version of the test. I have paid  clinical experience in a variety of healthcare settings from homecare/clinic to critical care/ER/NICU. For extracurricular activities I am a musician who directs choirs, leads workshops, have taught and volunteered internationally, a variety of awards and scholarships from university. Providing a strong MCAT re-write, would I have a decent shot of getting in?

 

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How strong is your motivation? I was never able to not try to get into med school, even in my thirties when I had a pretty good other job and life in general. The pull of wanting to go into medicine was much too strong to ignore, even if that meant waking up at 5am and going to bed at 1am to study the MCAT while working >40 hours per week. I went back for an undergrad at 29 and getting back into studying was pretty seamless after the initial learning curve, and I was able to get the GPA I needed for med school. I can't yet speak of what it is like to go back to med school specifically later in life because I'll be starting in Sept, but my motivation is so strong that I don't see that as an issue at all (though ask me again in 1.5 years, haha). I think if you want it enough, you'll have the momentum to re-do the MCAT and start studying again if/when you get in. If you're on the fence and not too sure, the obstacles of having to re-write the MCAT, the multiple applications to different school, the potential rejections and re-applications, will be a good filter to determine if it's the right path for you. But if your only worry is the age thing, look at the stats for matriculants at different med schools and you'll notice that there is a good range. 

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I went back to med school at 32. I had previously worked as a RN >> NP. While I am one of the older students, I am definitely not the oldest. There are at least 5-6 people who are in their late 30s to early 40s. The hardest part was transitioning from a full time job with a good salary, benefits and pension back to student life. That, and learning how to study for med school as it was different than studying in the other programs I had been in. I'm really happy with my decision to go back and become a MD but you do feel old at times compared to some of the other students fresh out of their undergrads. If you really want it, don't let age stop you. I just read an article today about a guy who started med school at age 43 after having been a car mechanic for 20+ years. Your previous career and experiences will only help you in med school plus you'll look way smarter in 1st year clinical skills labs when you can correctly perform the skill the 1st time and everyone else is bumbling around lol!!!  

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My gut feeling would be not to bother for a couple reasons. This is my take as a grizzled old man who left a professional career, went through the entire gamut of medical training and is now working as a community surgeon:

1. You are probably making good money as an RRT, with union protection, pension and benefits. I assume the job offers some independence (most RRT's I know work pretty independently) and satisfaction. Going to med school means piling on a ton of debt and losing lots of earnings/pension contribution. Depending what you do, you are gonna be tied up in studies for 6-12+ years. That is a ton of wasted earnings potential and it is early in life (so loss of investments now will hit you harder because you lose time to grow you investments). Most allied health, nurses and non medical professionals I know are far ahead of me in life (I'm a staff surgeon in his mid-late 30's). I started medicine at age 25, after leaving an good engineering career. Until I get into my 50's, I'll probably be worse off than most of the people I previously mentioned. And most of those people have far less stressful jobs than I do. Many of them have far less demanding jobs intellectually and/or work hours wise. The long term "cost" of medicine for you at this point in your life is very very very high.

2. You are gonna spend the short number of remaining years of your semi-youth back in school studying and working as a learner (which sucks). You are gonna miss a lot of time with your friends, which as you get older becomes rarer and rarer. Likewise, your parents are probably aging and spending time with them while they are healthy might also be something that concerns you.

3. I don't know if you are a male or female, but if you are considering having children, med school/residency can throw a major wrench into it. I had kids as a resident/fellow and it was very very very hard. We were in a city without much family support and far from home. My wife essentially single parented for most of the time because I was so busy. I found it exhausting because I would work my ass off, do tons of call and then when I got home from work I would force myself to stay awake so I could spend at least a little time with my children. There were lots of times I fell asleep lying on the hardwood floor playing with them. Have no doubt, you will be asking your spouse to take on a tremendous burden if you have kids during training. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to be a mother during training. Obviously, if you don't want kids, ignore this point.

4. Loss of control of your life. Right now you have a job, presumably in some location you like. You can take your vacation relatively when you want to. If you want to quit your job, or apply for a position in a new city in which you want to live, no major issues. If you go back into training, be prepared to lose most control of your life. You schedule is dictated to you. You will be abused by your superiors. You will have minimal ways to protect yourself from abuse. You will miss lots of things despite wanting to go to them. You very well may end up doing residency (2-6 years) and possibly fellowship in some location which you have no family and no desire to live (CaRMS is a cruel bitch). Unless you are smart and choose one of the few specialties that has good job opportunities (family, psych and maybe GIM), you could very well end up working in a job or location you have no interest in (or even hate). It's not easy to move jobs for most specialists. You could be there for years and years before you get out.

All that being said, if you really want to do medicine, nothing wrong with it. It can be a  good career. It may be the right decision for you. I know a few people who jumped in at age 30 or later. Likewise, I know lots of people who left good jobs for medicine. Some are happy with the decision, some are indifferent, some regret it. Just go in with your eyes open and know that once you jump in it can be very very very difficult to get out. 

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13 hours ago, NLengr said:

My gut feeling would be not to bother for a couple reasons. This is my take as a grizzled old man who left a professional career, went through the entire gamut of medical training and is now working as a community surgeon:

1. You are probably making good money as an RRT, with union protection, pension and benefits. I assume the job offers some independence (most RRT's I know work pretty independently) and satisfaction. Going to med school means piling on a ton of debt and losing lots of earnings/pension contribution. Depending what you do, you are gonna be tied up in studies for 6-12+ years. That is a ton of wasted earnings potential and it is early in life (so loss of investments now will hit you harder because you lose time to grow you investments). Most allied health, nurses and non medical professionals I know are far ahead of me in life (I'm a staff surgeon in his mid-late 30's). I started medicine at age 25, after leaving an good engineering career. Until I get into my 50's, I'll probably be worse off than most of the people I previously mentioned. And most of those people have far less stressful jobs than I do. Many of them have far less demanding jobs intellectually and/or work hours wise. The long term "cost" of medicine for you at this point in your life is very very very high.

2. You are gonna spend the short number of remaining years of your semi-youth back in school studying and working as a learner (which sucks). You are gonna miss a lot of time with your friends, which as you get older becomes rarer and rarer. Likewise, your parents are probably aging and spending time with them while they are healthy might also be something that concerns you.

3. I don't know if you are a male or female, but if you are considering having children, med school/residency can throw a major wrench into it. I had kids as a resident/fellow and it was very very very hard. We were in a city without much family support and far from home. My wife essentially single parented for most of the time because I was so busy. I found it exhausting because I would work my ass off, do tons of call and then when I got home from work I would force myself to stay awake so I could spend at least a little time with my children. There were lots of times I fell asleep lying on the hardwood floor playing with them. Have no doubt, you will be asking your spouse to take on a tremendous burden if you have kids during training. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to be a mother during training. Obviously, if you don't want kids, ignore this point.

4. Loss of control of your life. Right now you have a job, presumably in some location you like. You can take your vacation relatively when you want to. If you want to quit your job, or apply for a position in a new city in which you want to live, no major issues. If you go back into training, be prepared to lose most control of your life. You schedule is dictated to you. You will be abused by your superiors. You will have minimal ways to protect yourself from abuse. You will miss lots of things despite wanting to go to them. You very well may end up doing residency (2-6 years) and possibly fellowship in some location which you have no family and no desire to live (CaRMS is a cruel bitch). Unless you are smart and choose one of the few specialties that has good job opportunities (family, psych and maybe GIM), you could very well end up working in a job or location you have no interest in (or even hate). It's not easy to move jobs for most specialists. You could be there for years and years before you get out.

All that being said, if you really want to do medicine, nothing wrong with it. It can be a  good career. It may be the right decision for you. I know a few people who jumped in at age 30 or later. Likewise, I know lots of people who left good jobs for medicine. Some are happy with the decision, some are indifferent, some regret it. Just go in with your eyes open and know that once you jump in it can be very very very difficult to get out. 

The best part of this post.. is how you mention starting medicine at age 25... and despite this you still don't recommend it. That's not much older than the average starting age in medicine, considering how many people have to apply more than once to get in.

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I went back just before I turned 30. Like @northo60, the hardest part was giving up a good job with a good salary, benefits and pension and a lot of flexibility. I had a lot of autonomy and respect in my previous career, and being back at the bottom of the barrel where a bunch of administrators dictate your life can really suck. That said, there are also benefits to being older and having more life experience / maturity. I find a lot of experiences roll off of me more easily than for many of my younger colleagues. 26 year-old me would have struggled immensely and likely would not have coped well. I learned a lot about myself in my first career that has served me well in medicine. 

Everything @NLengr says rings true as well. For me the cost benefit analysis was pretty clear. I was in job that, while I liked it, I knew I wouldn’t want to do forever. And the other avenues I was considering pursuing (particularly a PhD) all seemed to have similar costs in time and money, but would lead to jobs with less flexibility or were less personally interesting to me than medicine. I am also not really planning to have kids, and was very sure (and still am) that I’d be happy doing family medicine. So it felt like a pretty clear decision. I am still training, but so far no regrets. But the cost / benefit analysis might be different for you. Free to message me if you want to discuss it.

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Good summary by @NLengr.  

I think it's important to highlight that medicine isn't simply a new job - you're going to have to work hard, regardless of your background/competencies to achieve success with the possible downsides mentioned, with no guarantee of anything during the journey.

None of the points are necessarily insurmountable or always true, but really knowing some of the concrete issues that could occur puts you in a much better position to evaluate whether medicine is right for you.  Many people take years to make those realizations.

Most older learners, especially with young families, tend to choose  FM, which is a little more flexible and has less training time, but this isn't always the case for sure.  Point 3 shouldn't be underestimated.

It may also be a little more challenging to gel with your classmates because of age/life  differences.

Is it feasible? - yes, for sure, even under very challenging circumstances.

Edit: I like @frenchpress nicely expressed anecdotal assessment that mentions how experience can sometimes be helpful, which I agree with as well (looks like we posted within a minute of each other).

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7 hours ago, shematoma said:

The best part of this post.. is how you mention starting medicine at age 25... and despite this you still don't recommend it. That's not much older than the average starting age in medicine, considering how many people have to apply more than once to get in.

Just to be clear, because I think there was a bit of a misunderstanding: My recommendation that I would probably wouldnt do it was for the original poster who was almost 30 and had a good job. I wasn't referring to starting at age 25 (which I think changes the scenario a bit for point 1 and point 3) or my own scenario.

That being said, I think my points are things that can be considered for anyone thinking about leaving a good career to pursue medicine, or entering medicine at an older age. 

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I've mentioned this in other threads but I was also a professional before entering medicine. I would advise against entering medicine in your 30s. I say this even though I enjoy what I'm doing now. This is because I have seen too many colleagues both young and old grow to find that medicine wasn't the ideal job for their life goals and become bitter and disillusioned. Sometime this takes 20 years other times it only takes 5. The system is designed so that by the time you understand if medicine is a good fit it is too late to leave (debt, age, etc). I'm not saying medicine is the only route that requires such sacrifice but it is one of the few that require a large amount of time and money invested. If I wanted to optimize for money I would've been much further ahead at my old job at this point. I think the only thing I gained was some more social prestige if any. It is very difficult to describe the challenges of training (clerkship, residency, fellowship) to prospective students and I feel we do a disservice to students by not showing them what the actual path entails. 

I don't think medicine is the ultimate career that will bring everyone satisfaction. It is a good job for some and a bad job for others. Honestly, I can say now that I probably would've been just as happy in my old profession now that I have done both. If I could go back in time with the knowledge I have now it would be hard to convince my younger self to go through medicine again haha. It's a meaningful job but there are other jobs that also bring meaning to yourself and to society. 

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2 hours ago, blah1234 said:

I've mentioned this in other threads but I was also a professional before entering medicine. I would advise against entering medicine in your 30s. I say this even though I enjoy what I'm doing now. This is because I have seen too many colleagues both young and old grow to find that medicine wasn't the ideal job for their life goals and become bitter and disillusioned. Sometime this takes 20 years other times it only takes 5. The system is designed so that by the time you understand if medicine is a good fit it is too late to leave (debt, age, etc). I'm not saying medicine is the only route that requires such sacrifice but it is one of the few that require a large amount of time and money invested. If I wanted to optimize for money I would've been much further ahead at my old job at this point. I think the only thing I gained was some more social prestige if any. It is very difficult to describe the challenges of training (clerkship, residency, fellowship) to prospective students and I feel we do a disservice to students by not showing them what the actual path entails. 

I don't think medicine is the ultimate career that will bring everyone satisfaction. It is a good job for some and a bad job for others. Honestly, I can say now that I probably would've been just as happy in my old profession now that I have done both and if I could go back in time with the knowledge I have it would be hard to convince my younger self to go through medicine again haha. It's a meaningful job but there are other jobs that also bring meaning to yourself and society. 

So much this.

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Thank you all for your input, many of these thoughts have crossed my mind, but it is good to hear from others as well :) 

I am extremely interested in anesthesiology (likely due to my RT background). As @NLengr mentioned, loss of control of my life is certainly a factor to consider. I do have other commitments outside of medicine that will make it difficult to leave Southwestern ON. Does anyone know much about anesthesia (either the FM version or the Royal college version) in regards to availability of jobs (I realize this is pretty much impossible to predict lol)?

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