Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Careers in Medicine

Wife and I have talked a ton of times about our reasons for choosing our respective careers. For those new readers out there, Wife is in a BSN (Bachelor's of Science in Nursing) RN (Registered Nurse) program, and I'm in my first year of an MD (Doctor of Medicine) program. The discussions usually stems from how glad one of us is (usually how glad she is, since I'm not quite to the "doing-what-I-signed-up-for" point yet) with what we chose to do with our lives. The thing is, a lot of people struggle with which area they should go into in health care.

The bottom line is that the majority of people go into health care because they want to help people on a fundamental level. Sure, there are a few that might only be going into it for job security or the money, but I'd bet they're a small minority because there are many, many much easier and less time-consuming ways to make money and have a steady job. So the motivation really isn't an issue.

The next step with most people after realizing that they want to do something in health care is figuring out what they'd like to do. There are unit techs, phlebotomists, nurse's aids, radiology techs, licensed practicing nurses (LPNs), registered nurses with/without BSNs, nurse practitioners with/without PhDs, physician assistants (PAs), and doctors (MDs and DOs) - and a million others that I'm not taking the time to think up right now. This is a daunting list of options for someone who wants to go into healthcare. It only gets slightly less crazy once a decision has been made - especially if that decision involves being a nurse or doctor. More on that in a minute.

When Wife was at this point and was considering a career in Nursing, I encouraged her to shadow some nurses to see what she thought of the whole thing. That went swimmingly, and she enrolled a few short months later. She now has only about a year and a couple months left before she hits the real world as a nurse, and she is being forced (okay, not really forced - she's so smart and dedicated that she's been pursuing the idea of higher education in Nursing at very little prompting from anyone else) to consider whether or not she wants to continue her education at a Master's or PhD level.

Here's the thing: Wife is meant to be a nurse of some sort. A lot of people think that if you want to go into medicine and you're smart enough, you become a doctor. That's ridiculous. Not every smart person is meant to be a doctor. She's smart enough that she could do literally whatever she'd like to do. She's brilliant, truly. But when it comes down to it, there are things she wants to do, and there are things she doesn't want to do. She's been asked multiple times, "So why don't you want to go to med school?" She always replies with some variation of, "I'm just not one of those people - but thank goodness those people exist!" That's actually her refrain when she sees me in the middle of a marathon of studying - "I'm so glad there are people like you in the world..." Then she makes me a sandwich.

You see, she likes taking care of people, but wouldn't so much get a kick out of the years of hard science and sleep deprivation that go with training in an MD or DO program. That, plus she wouldn't want to sacrifice the one-on-one time spent with patients that nurses get and doctors all too often are forced to miss out on. Plus, there's no reason to say she won't continue her education at a higher level after a year or two in the field. There's no telling where we're going to be once I'm in residency, but even if there isn't a local graduate program in Nursing around, there are still quality programs through MSN online that offer a wide variety of options.

So Wife chose nursing because that's the best fit for her, personally. And apparently I chose the route of physician because I love studying for years and years and years the application of hard science to bettering the health and well-being of others. Even though we've chosen our careers, by no means are our choices done. I still need to end up picking a specialty, though Emergency Medicine is looking more and more like a good pick for me, as I go through endless seminars on the myriad of specialty options. Wife has the slight advantage of being able to move from one area to another as a nurse. Once I pick a specialty, it's a lot more difficult to change my mind... So I don't plan on doing that.

So keep all this in mind if you're thinking about a career in medicine or health care in general. There's a right fit for each individual, and it doesn't always have as much to do with intelligence as with motivation, personal goals, and style. This is actually a really good thing, as every single position in the field of health care is absolutely vital. Without one part of the pyramid, it all comes crumbling down.


Anonymous said...

This is a really cool reflection. I'm applying to med school right now, and I love the feeling that I know what I want to do in life, but I still have a million options open to me.

If I could ask your advice on something... I'm writing a secondary essay right now. It's supposed to be 8000 characters about why I would contribute to their class. Most of that went into my personal statement, so, just in your opinion, do you think it's okay to write under half of the limit?

Justin said...

@smokeintostars - First of all, congratulations on making it to the secondary essay phase of the application process! You've done a lot of work to get to this point, and that is to be congratulated. As for the word limit, I don't think there is anything bad to be said about being underneath the limit, as long as your essay answers the question to the absolute best of your ability. So I guess I'd just say you should be absolutely SURE you've answered the question as completely as possible. The limit is there to make sure people don't submit novels in the place of essays, as the adcoms sift through mountains of essays as it is. Less than half of the limit on a smaller limit could be viewed as a bit skimpy, but 8,000 characters is pretty high. If you believe your answer is as complete and well-written as possible, I'd say go for it. It would be equally bad to pad a good essay with needless fluff just to get closer to the character limit as it would be to write a weak essay, as both actions would just annoy the reviewer.

Hopefully that helps some. I recommend that you reflect carefully, and get the opinion on your essay of someone who knows you well PLUS an adviser from your school, or someone who has gone through the admissions process before. It may be there's something you could be overlooking that might serve to make your essay more complete. Good luck!

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