Being a doctor is an awesome profession, but it’s far from perfect. Society at large idolizes the hard work, dedication, and status that being a physician entails, but I would argue that there is a significant subset of individuals who want to become doctors but probably shouldn’t.
We offer top-of-the-line courses and services for students who are interested in getting accepted to medical school or matching into residency, so it may seem counterintuitive that we would make content focused on reasons one should not go into medicine.
From a business perspective, we should want as many people to go into medicine as possible. After all, that would be most profitable to us. But Med School Insiders is about much more than that. We seek to create a better future of happier, healthier, more effective doctors. And a big part of that philosophy is keeping it real with you all and cutting through the nonsense.
Unless you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to truly comprehend what it means to go through medical school or residency. I’ll do my best to cut out the noise and help you decide whether or not this field is a good fit for you. Here are four signs that becoming a doctor isn’t for you.
1 | Parental Pressure
If parental pressure is a significant factor in your motivation to go to medical school and become a doctor, do yourself a favor—don’t do it. I’ve seen dozens of students enter medicine due to family pressures, and it almost never ends up well for them.
They usually either quit in the middle of medical school or if they continue on, their disdain for the profession and their life is heavy and readily apparent. Some have even told me that they wish they could quit but either feel trapped because their family would disown them or because their significant student loans have them cornered.
It’s a tough situation, no doubt about it. But if you continue down the demanding and arduous path of becoming a doctor because your family wants you to, it won’t end well for you. The pain and hurt of quitting once you’re already a couple of years into your training will almost certainly be worse than being honest and quitting sooner. I get it; it’s not easy. But doing the right thing often isn’t easy.
2 | You Dislike People
You know the type—the people who get easily frustrated by others’ seemingly endless stupidity or incompetence. If you’re not patient with people, then being a physician won’t make you happy.
Some medical students joke that they’re pursuing pathology because they don’t like people, or even surgery so that they can put the patient under anesthesia so they stop talking. The reality is every field in medicine requires good people skills and regular interaction with others. Sure, in pathology you’re not interacting with patients as much as a psychiatrist or primary care doctor would, but you still need to regularly coordinate with other healthcare providers to understand and analyze the specimens and provide tailored guidance to the healthcare team.
Similarly, a lot of surgery involves face-to-face interaction and clinic time. Even as a surgeon, you’ll be spending about two days per week in the clinic, not operating. And on surgery days, you’ll still spend a lot of time speaking with the patient and their family pre-op, with the healthcare team intraoperatively, and with their family again post-op.
Be warned: not all patients are kind or appreciative. If this is a deal breaker for you, think long and hard about your decision.
3 | You’re Allergic to Hard Work
Even if you’re incredibly intelligent and skated through high school or even college with great grades and minimal work, it will not sustain you. Trust me. I have a few friends who have brilliant minds, so getting into medical school was easy for them. But the adjustment to the vast quantities of information you need to learn in medical school is a different animal entirely.
Intelligence has less to do with being successful in medical school than you think. It’s more closely tied to work ethic. Medical school requires more memorization than critical thinking abilities, and that’s far less dependent on intelligence.
It’s the same with residency. The hours are long, and the amount of knowledge you need to acquire and hours of experience you need to put under your belt are nothing to scoff at. If your idea of hard work is 9-5, five days per week, then medicine isn’t the right career path for you.
4 | Medicine Isn’t Your Main Focus
If you have a variety of professional interests and pursuits, then medicine will not be conducive to your long-term vision. To be successful as a clinician, medicine has to be a central focus in your life. Sure, you can have side hustles and hobbies, I’m not arguing against that, but making significant progress in other professional pursuits while pursuing medicine is neither feasible nor sustainable.
Many medical schools do not allow their students to work on the side because of the intensity and rigor. Schools understand that medical school is expensive and you want to pay the bills, but it’s much more likely to contribute to burnout and overall harm your medical school performance.
In residency, your hours will be even more intense and your lifestyle even less conducive to pursuing side hustles. And depending on your specialty of choice, attending life won’t be a walk in the park either. Looking across all specialties, only 13% of physicians work fewer than 40 hours per week. Most of them work between 40 to 60 hours per week, and a quarter of them work between 60 and 80 hours per week. If you’re going into something surgical, expect your hours to be on the higher end of the spectrum.
These four points aren’t meant to be hard rules, but if you do find yourself identifying with them, then I advise you to seriously reconsider medicine as your career of choice. There are many other ways to make a comfortable and rewarding living with far less effort.
Being a doctor is a special profession for a special breed of person. If after hearing these points you are still set on becoming a physician, then more power to you. We want to help make your dream become a reality. We offer the highest quality, systematically designed courses and services to help you become an effective doctor.
If you’re a premed, check out our Pre-Med Roadmap to Medical School Acceptance course, which lays out a customizable template with high-yield content to help you craft your college career and set yourself up for a medical school acceptance.
If you’re further along in the process, our How to Ace the Medical School Interview Course will help you put your best foot forward and maximize your chances of securing that sweet sweet acceptance. Additionally, all courses come backed with a 100% 30-day money back guarantee, so if you are not satisfied for any reason, let us know, and you’ll get a full refund. Talk about a sweet deal.