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Is It Worth It At 30?

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I am hoping to get some input from medical students  or physicians. This post might belong in the non-traditional section.

 

I am 30 and have a decent paying career. I am regretting my decision to not try to go to medical school more as the time goes by. Also, there are several things about my current career that I really don't like. It is a likely a dead -end job and I'll never have a secure income. I also hate the fact that I probably won't be able to provide a upper middle class lifestyle for my family (no kids yet). I didn't expect this when I got into it my current career.

 

My question is do you think it would be worth it to try to go to medical school at my age? I would likely be 32/33 by the time I got in. I know there have been lots of posts, but I wanted to ask, and I will try to do some reading. Financially, I probably won't break even until age 46 (this is with a pretty conservative physician salary, and assumes I keep my current job who knows about that)

 

Do you think I should do some volunteering first?

 

Thanks!

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So far, as someone who started about 10 weeks ago in her mid-30s, yes, all worth it. I love this and the doors it's opening up.

 

I do not care about $$ though, and would live in a tent if it meant I got to do what I love.

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I do not care about $$ though, and would live in a tent if it meant I got to do what I love.

 

 

That's exactly my attitude :D

 

Life is pretty short and you can really lose objectivity once life hits you after school. But isn't it all about doing what you love, and frankly I think we are very fortunate that our passion involves a job that really makes a difference in the lives of others so significantly.

 

I'm also in a good career, but will be giving it up soon to pursue my dream. But then again, I don't really care about money and no interest in living the american/dream (maybe later?).

 

Go for it, but I feel that you/OP are only thinking about med for money; which might be the wrong reasons to be considering this path.

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As someone who left a good career to pursue medicine, albeit at a younger age then 30, I'd say no. It's just too long to retrain, and the retraining involves too much sacrifice of the little semi youth you have left. Think hard if you want to really assume a massive debt at this point in your life. The last thing you want is to be forced to work till 70 because you can't afford to retire.

 

Also, if you want to have kids, doing it in medical training is very difficult and means missing a large amount of time with them. Trust me, it blows. You're kids don't care about an upper middle class lifestyle. A 5 year old doesn't care if their jeans are from Walmart or GAP. They care about seeing you and spending time with you

 

Try to think of any other way you'd be happy with work (new company, new type of job, shorter retraining for another career etc.). Going into medicine should be a last resort. Remember in most surveys somewhere around 50% of docs say they wouldn't do it all over again. And that includes people who started young and wouldn't have had the issues you face.

 

If I had a choice to do it all again, honestly, I probably wouldn't.

 

If you do decide to do it, you should go in focusing on family med. In and out as fast as possible. The last thing you want to do is something where you are gonna need 9-13 years of training.

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It's definitely harder.

First off, in your 30s, you start to learn slower. 2 of my colleagues in their thirties told me that they find it harder to study and assimilate the material fast vs when they were 20 something.

One has a child, and that colleague finds it really hard to spend time with their family, especially because that person sleeps 5 hours on average every night, and doesn't have a basic/clinical science background. Therefore, on every PPT slide or almost, that person has to check on google or read a textbook. Having a child and not being able to spend time with it has to hurt, both for the parent and the child. Also, that person's significant other has to spend time to do chores, since my colleague doesn' have time for that.

The other one has a solid background in basic sciences, but still finds it super hard. That person told me about how hard it is family wise, not being able to spend time with significant other, and that they can't have the time nor the financial means to hang out with their friends.

 

So, all in all, technically, there is no real age.

But in practice, from a realistic point of view, there are quite a lot of things you should consider. 

 

Med school is rough. I have a solid science background. Therefore, I rarely don't understand anything, so I almost never have to read textbooks. I still have to spend a loooot of time memorizing the material nonetheless. I had to cut down a lot of my activities outside school. I have to admit that my time management wasn't super good and I'm working on that. Still, it involves a loooot of time and a lot of energy.

 

Now, I finally understand why some people would quit medicine. Before, as a premed, I used to think that med school is wonderful and you're basically where you want to be in life. But now I realize that you just spend a crap ton of time to memorize a bunch of lists during your preclerk, including a lot of lists that will be of absolutely no use in your practice. You will still face a bunch of profs who can't explain clearly, and test you on something at the bottom right corner of a slide that haven't even covered in class. You will still see profs who can't make structured notes, and you will spend a ton of time just to organizing your notes. (then, there are always wonderful ones)

 

Personally, I don't think I would have done it past the age of 28 because there are other things that I would have liked too, maybe not as much (this is what I think now, but then, I could reflect back in 20 years and regret my decision all together in medicine. Who knows.).Then again, those people who do get in after 30 are people who truly were sure, because of a prior career that they didn't find satisfying. In order to get there, they had to make a lot of sacrifices before med school (saving money during years, spending a crap ton of time doing the most useless and time consuming test for clinical medicine: MCAT, planning finances etc...) and now again, just like those 2 examples, they have to make sacrifices again. Also, it could be hard for them socially speaking, simply because the average med student is a bit more than 10 years younger than them.

 

Now, I just want to be clear. These opinions are my own, and the same problems would be encountered regardless of the med school you attend.

 

Edit: I just saw NLengr's post. I especially agree with the small 5 year old part. The first colleague's child does just that right now: pulling on their pants when studying, doing things to get attention. It's painful to listen to. Imagine being in my colleague's position, even harder.

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It is easy to be enthusiastic about medicine when you are early in the game, or, just trying to get in. Comments like "I would live in a tent to do what I love" are ver characteristic of a certain phase of the training process - I've been there!

 

Just started as an attending and I pretty much have one of the best jobs you could ever imagine. I make a very good living, treat interesting patients, pretty much never pick up the phone at night or on weekends and get paid to travel internationally several times per year. That said, I started my training at 24, 10 years ago, and still feel like much of that training is a chunk of life I will never get back. Pre-clerkship was a joke, but clerkship was steadily busy, and residency precluded all hobbies. That is 7 years of the 10 that were pretty bad. I had fun throughout (sort of), and you trick yourself in residency into thinking you enjoy working that hard, it inhindsight it was quite awful. I didn't see my kids much. Much depends on the field you end up in.....my wife made a point of not commiserating at all with the wives of my friends in family medicine when they were complaining about their husbands' call and hours because it was so incredibly good compared to a surgical residency. She just endured.

 

Now life is great, but we have a 6 figure med school debt to payoff and are essentially financially starting out at 34.... I could not imagine being in a similar position 10 years from now-kids are a bit of a game changer for how you think about finances.

 

I love my job and couldn't imagine doing something else. However, I'm not the most imaginative, and the years it took to get here took a bite out of my life.

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If you are thinking about having children, OP, that's a huge consideration. If you've already finished your family building, then I really don't think it's that big of a deal.

 

My comment regarding living in a tent is because I have lived in a tent and don't find it much of a burden. Thanks for your concern, poster above, but I'm actually pretty fulfilled in life. 

 

I wouldn't worry too much about cognitive function. You can still be pretty smart in your 30s, I assure you. Some of us are not struggling academically. 

 

Back to OP- it sounds like you are interested in med for the money. If that's the case, it will likely not be worth it for you.

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It seems you don't really have a choice. Either you keep your job you don't like or do something to change it.

 

I was in the same position as you 5 years ago. Had a job, earn enough to pay my bills, feed my family... but I hated it and couldn't stop thinking of changing it.  I don't know you but when I decided I would try to get in medschool (I only had 1 daughter at the time) nobody could have say anything that would have changed my mind because I knew that there were only two possible outcomes : Keep my job and regret my whole life or try to get in. I knew at the start that being a physician has a lot of bad sides... but surely not as much as my previous job. And at least it has a good pay.

 

I'm MS3 and have 3 child btw. It's definitely doable.

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I haven't read through all the replies as I am studying my first MS3 exam. I am 36 years old, 3rd year med, have a 4 month old child and loving my choice of leaving my 6 figure income to come back to medical school. Why? 

 

- Because life in general is boring ... same day in and day out crap. You get into your 30's and you ask "Is this all there is to life? wake up, do your thing, go sleep, repeat" ... I wasn't challenged by my career as an allied health professional, didn't feel respected and although I was making decent money I was pushing 60 hrs to just crack that 6 figures. So I wanted to liven up my life, do something exciting like following my dream of being an emerg doc.

 

- Ive already enjoyed my 20's ... partied, had fun and can now concentrate on school. For those who started med school when you were 23 and 24 and missed out on your 20's ... I feel sorry for you. Especially since as a medical student you have professional expectations of behaviour. I enjoyed being an @ss, immature and so on in my 20's ... got that out of the way.

 

- Less able to study in your 30's? nah thats not true, you just have to get back into a routine and get back good study habits. I don't care about the minute details like some of my anal 20 something classmates but thats not cuz I am less intelligent just that I realize that knowing that 'Gene 257z variant C' does this will make no difference in my clinical practice that I dont bother trying to remember stupid crap some of my younger colleagues break their backs trying to memorize.

 

- Even if you start earning independent practitioner salaries/wages at 40 - 45 years of age you will be ahead financially if you stayed in a middle income situation, so the argument of years lost in income doesn't hold much weight unless you choose to do a 5 yr residency plus 2+ years of fellowship then you are starting to cut into your more limited years of income (20-25 years of practice).

 

That is all .... if you don't do medicine in your 30's what really is your option? can't go back in time .... either this lifetime or never.

 

Beef

Edited by Real Beef

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Although we are in different situations, my true opinion is that age is not the defining factor when making a decision such as this.

 

I turned 30 in September, have a beautiful wife and 4 year old daughter, and wouldn't change anything in my life to date. I was an EMT when I was 18, a paramedic at 21, and have had a good career with various opportunities in EMS, education, and health & safety. I have passed by career opportunities that would give me an excellent income and great quality of life until retirement so I can go back to school next year to pursue medicine. Why? Because no matter how good an opportunity seems to everyone else, if it doesn't make you happy and you can't see yourself doing it 30 years from now.....it shouldn't be a path you follow.

 

Now if your #1 reason to pursue medicine is money - don't do it. But if money is number 4 or 5 with other good reasons above it - go for it.

 

Age is just a number that shows us how close we may or may not be to death when compared against the average lifespan of an adult. It doesn't matter what you are doing at any given point in your life so long as you are happy in that particular moment.

 

Personally I couldn't be happier leaving a career that I will not be satisfied doing for the next 35 years in order to sacrifice some things in my life to be extremely satisfied in a career that I will do for 20-25 years after 15 years of being a student. 

 

Or perhaps I will get hit by a bus tomorrow crossing the street. Best of luck!

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I'm in my late 20s and just started med school. It is challenging, but if it is right for you, ultimately worth it. As my Dad said to me, one day you're going to wake up and be 50, regardless...so you can either be a 50 year old doctor, or a 50 year old something else. It's your call. 

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I feel like I am in a similar situation to what Real Beef describes being in before starting medicine.

At the moment, I work a lot of hours, I always have, and I think I probably always will.

 

As far as having children goes, paid mat leave is essentially unheard of in my field so having a kid during residency would be an improvement and during med school would be the same (time off would be unpaid). As my kids are growing, I will probably be working long hours no matter what field I am in.

 

I've already done an advanced degree after my biology degree and I welcome the challenge of med school. My current career is intellectually challenging as it is, and I actually found studying for the MCAT easier than I would have 10 years ago (the intellectual challenges since then have helped, as well as the fact I am not sick of studying having been out of school so long, which I think helps, towards the end of my original 2 degrees, I was getting a little sick of studying, but only at the VERY end).

I already have long hours and all nighters and don't make much more than a resident, so the only thing that will really suck is being broke in medical school and also paying tuition. If I can get enough loans to cover that and living, it won't be so bad at all. I actually like school and always have so maybe I am not the norm.

Once residency starts I will be back in the same boat in terms of hours and pay that I am in now. I imagine another thing that is not fun in residency is being at the bottom rung of the ladder in a very hierarchical profession, but I've been there too and I think it bothers me less than it does some people (especially knowing that it's temporary, it must suck for some other health professionals who basically have to put up with doctors talking down to them for their entire careers).

This being said I would be choosing family if I get in, so this is all in the context of a 2 year residency.

I feel like if you are not used to working long hours and you don't like school, then it's definitely not for you no matter what age. All of my friends in their early 30s who choose challenging careers in the 20s through advanced schooling are still working hard and will be indefinitely. I think it's a myth that you ever get a chance to slow down in most professions. Some family doctors are able to do this that I have seen, but that is not the norm at all when compared to other doctors or other professions generally.

 

Personally I am not counting on ever getting a chance to slow down. I am not sure if I am being too cynical on that one!

 

These are my personal thoughts on the whole thing. I really want to get into medicine and go. I know it's hard work, but I guess my point is that life is always hard work! If any current, past, or future med students think i am missing something with my take on it, it would be helpful to know :).

 

Edited by makingfetchhappen

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I haven't read through all the replies as I am studying my first MS3 exam. I am 36 years old, 3rd year med, have a 4 month old child and loving my choice of leaving my 6 figure income to come back to medical school. Why? 

 

- Because life in general is boring ... same day in and day out crap. You get into your 30's and you ask "Is this all there is to life? wake up, do your thing, go sleep, repeat" ... I wasn't challenged by my career as an allied health professional, didn't feel respected and although I was making decent money I was pushing 60 hrs to just crack that 6 figures. So I wanted to liven up my life, do something exciting like following my dream of being an emerg doc.

 

- Ive already enjoyed my 20's ... partied, had fun and can now concentrate on school. For those who started med school when you were 23 and 24 and missed out on your 20's ... I feel sorry for you. Especially since as a medical student you have professional expectations of behaviour. I enjoyed being an @ss, immature and so on in my 20's ... got that out of the way.

 

- Less able to study in your 30's? nah thats not true, you just have to get back into a routine and get back good study habits. I don't care about the minute details like some of my anal 20 something classmates but thats not cuz I am less intelligent just that I realize that knowing that 'Gene 257z variant C' does this will make no difference in my clinical practice that I dont bother trying to remember stupid crap some of my younger colleagues break their backs trying to memorize.

 

- Even if you start earning independent practitioner salaries/wages at 40 - 45 years of age you will be ahead financially if you stayed in a middle income situation, so the argument of years lost in income doesn't hold much weight unless you choose to do a 5 yr residency plus 2+ years of fellowship then you are starting to cut into your more limited years of income (20-25 years of practice).

 

That is all .... if you don't do medicine in your 30's what really is your option? can't go back in time .... either this lifetime or never.

 

Beef

 

Just as a counterpoint, I don't know that life ever becomes inherently "not boring". Everyone settles into a routine. I'd say that's actually a good thing. Even though I am something of an adrenalin junkie at times, it is very, very nice to have days where things go as predicted, and I can go home without worrying too much about what will happen overnight. To take an example, the times I've had to organize a rescue PCI in the middle of the night have been pretty memorable, but it's a lot less "fun" seeing tombstone ST segments and recognizing time is of the essence, even while you still have a few other consults to see or direct admissions to sort out. 

 

Medicine can be stressful. Really stressful. You need to be able to deal with it well. And it is definitely harder on your personal life when you're doing in-house call or night shifts throughout clerkship, residency, and beyond. Things get delayed. 

 

Occasionally you do get to do something "special" and it feels really good. But there's a lot of routine and a lot of paperwork and jumping through hoops in between. I think that's generally okay. Excitement is great, but doing something "exciting" all the time is a recipe for quick burnout - and lifestyle really, really matters. 

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I believe the most significant contributor to burnout is doing rote work that has no significance or meaning. 

 

Lots of medicine falls under this, but lots doesn't. Some fields have more of it than others.

 

I think that it is a bigger consideration than the acuity or stress or hours involved in a particular line of work.

 

If the OP is planning on going into medicine, don't think too much about residency length. Think about the type of work that is done in each field, and see if you can find meaning in it. For you it might be family, or it might be surgery, or obstetrics, or any of the other fields.

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Just as a counterpoint, I don't know that life ever becomes inherently "not boring". Everyone settles into a routine. I'd say that's actually a good thing. Even though I am something of an adrenalin junkie at times, it is very, very nice to have days where things go as predicted, and I can go home without worrying too much about what will happen overnight. To take an example, the times I've had to organize a rescue PCI in the middle of the night have been pretty memorable, but it's a lot less "fun" seeing tombstone ST segments and recognizing time is of the essence, even while you still have a few other consults to see or direct admissions to sort out. 

 

Medicine can be stressful. Really stressful. You need to be able to deal with it well. And it is definitely harder on your personal life when you're doing in-house call or night shifts throughout clerkship, residency, and beyond. Things get delayed. 

 

Occasionally you do get to do something "special" and it feels really good. But there's a lot of routine and a lot of paperwork and jumping through hoops in between. I think that's generally okay. Excitement is great, but doing something "exciting" all the time is a recipe for quick burnout - and lifestyle really, really matters. 

 

I dont disagree with your counterpoint. Agreed, that much that seemed 'exciting or new' becomes routine in practice over the years.

 

I believe the most significant contributor to burnout is doing rote work that has no significance or meaning. 

 

Lots of medicine falls under this, but lots doesn't. Some fields have more of it than others.

 

I think that it is a bigger consideration than the acuity or stress or hours involved in a particular line of work.

 

If the OP is planning on going into medicine, don't think too much about residency length. Think about the type of work that is done in each field, and see if you can find meaning in it. For you it might be family, or it might be surgery, or obstetrics, or any of the other fields.

 

Fantastic insight. Totally agree that finding work/specialty that provides meaning in your life is what may fulfill you and is what was lacking in some of our lives previously, in our first careers, and that we believe we can find within the field of medicine ... whether we are right or wrong in doing so.

 

Beef

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I'll give my input as someone who is 38 in the last year of a full second UG, applied last year and received 1 interview but decided time is just not on my side to pursue it.

 

What I did not anticipate when I came back from a fairly successful career in business was the needs of my family. Most of all my family members are in poor or not great health. In the past 3 years I've probably logged more time at hospitals than in classes and have had to defer all but 3 exams/tests. On my wife's side. my closest family was my father in-law who was "only" 35 mins away who, for 6 months, would only eat if I or my wife was feeding him and while in hospital would only sleep (unless medicated) if my wife or I were there so we basically spent 3 months sleeping in a hospital chair. On my side of the family I have my mom, 2 aunts and my uncle who live between 1.5 and 4 hours away. All have had multiple stints in the hospital either requiring major surgery or in the case of one, in sepsis.

 

All are doing 'ok' right now but I do not envision it staying that way.It has been a real struggle in choosing between what I came back to school for (medicine) and my family. As a result I tried to achieve both and now I have my own health issues (EVERYTHING really is a system haha). 

 

One of the criteria I had for going back to school in the first place was that I didn't want any regrets and to look back and say I wish I had of done X. I also don't want regrets in looking back and wishing I had spent more time with my family or that I had been there for them when they needed me the most.

 

I may feel differently after the year is done but being 38 I'd say I left it a bit too late. And that's ok. I don't regret coming back. I was still able to make a fairly comfortable living as a consultant so the net impact to finances was minimal AND I got to learn about things that I likely wouldn't have plus it gave me a renewed passion for learning and being around smart people which I will continuously seek out. If I had to of gone into debt or suffered financially to do so I am not sure if I would still feel this way. Knowing me, I probably have the opinion of "well, that was a waste of 4 years". lol

 

Some things about being a mature student/applicant I have noticed: 

1) learning is hard when you've been out of the game for any length of time - you need to retrain your brain how to learn again and that takes time

 

2) You have far more responsibilities than when you were a young student. I have a house, cars, wife, dogs, cat, baby on the way, friends, family, etc that all require some of my resources - financial, time, or both.

 

3) Externalities. This is probably the one  I was most unprepared for as I it hadn't even entered my mind that I would be dealing with the issues I had been. While you can't foresee all externalities you should try and plan for worst case and  what that might look like because once you hit a certain age the magnitude of their impact increases compared to being 21 (at 30 you can't say that if I screw up a year or two because of X that you'll just take a 5th year or do a second degree - time is not on your side)

 

4) Find a way to make sure money is not an issue or minimize it as much as possible. I was in a lucky position that I could afford to go back to school even if I hadn't worked one single hour as a consultant but being a reflective type I know that if finances had been an issue from the get go then it would have posed some significant challenges. Work for a year or two to try and build up your finances while taking some pre-req courses via distance ed so that you eliminate the money issue right off the bat. This will also help you determine whether you really want to pursue this. It's easy to say you do as everyone is full of p!ss and vinegar in the beginning but try working AND studying while not having a life (because you're trying to save $$) for a couple years.

 

You only ever hear successful people say follow your dreams as the ones who did and it didn't work out are too busy working their ass to the bone to try and dig themselves out of a hole (financially and mentally).

 

Doubt anyone will read this but wanted to give my thoughts as someone who has battled this :)

 

Cheers!

 

Edit: wanted to also add: one of the reasons I decided to pursue medicine was wanting a sense of what I was doing was making a difference in the world and for people I interacted with (no, it wasn't the only reason). In my corporate business world I felt like that only thing I was doing was making rich people richer (including myself). I hit a point where I sat and wondered WTF am I doing? This is pretty soulless work. That my only purpose is to make more and more money for the companies I work for. However, I have realized that there are many ways and things I can do that make me feel like my time on this earth extends beyond being a money maker and that I have the ability and means to do this. Make sure you consider and evaluate this component honestly. I say this because working in any career that makes you a VERY comfortable living will require you to work a lot of hours and make a lot of sacrifices and you will not enjoy your path if the reason is primarily financial. If you already have a decent career and make a decent living but are feeling like something is missing then try and find out what that missing piece is and if there is something else that would fill the void.

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