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Ten Reasons Not to Become a Physician

M.C. DeGroff-Davis earned her MD from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center at Shreveport.

Thinking of applying to med school? Read this first.

Thinking of applying to med school? Read this first.

10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Go to Medical School

Everyone has probably heard the Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson duet to mothers advising them not to let their children grow up to be cowboys but to “let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such.” They obviously never went down the rabbit hole of actually trying to be a doctor. Here are 10 excellent reasons not ever to become a doctor.

1. The Competition Just to Get in Is Fierce

Between the 2017-2018 and 2019-2020 school years, roughly less than 40 percent of medical school applicants matriculated, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The admissions committees have tons of great applicants with great GPAs and fabulous scores on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

If you plan to apply, be aware your social media profiles will most likely be viewed by the committees. Applicants must have something which sets them apart to even get an interview. As the trends show more people are increasingly applying to med school (med school applications went up 6.2% from 2014 to 2015, which was a double increase from the previous cycle), the competition and competitors will likely only become more fierce.

If you default on your student loans, you will not even be able to obtain a copy of your hard-earned diploma until your loan is out of default status.

If you default on your student loans, you will not even be able to obtain a copy of your hard-earned diploma until your loan is out of default status.

2. It's Expensive (Brother, Can You Spare Over $200,000?)

According to the AAMC, in 2013, the average cost of public medical school (tuition, fees, books, etc.) was $207,866 and $278,455 for a private medical degree. Because that is a huge chunk of change, most medical students take out loans (as in most medical schools there are no scholarships available). Loans not only have to be repaid, but they accrue interest. You can ask for a deferment while in residency as the average first-year resident—or intern—currently pulls in a mere $35,000 a year. (To put that figure into perspective, the yearly salary of a convenience store manager is $37,030.)

Whether you are making money or not, the loans will hang around your neck like an albatross until you have paid them off. In case you were thinking about not paying on them, if you default on any of the loans you have taken out, your educational institution will withhold your transcripts, and you will not even be able to obtain a copy of your hard-earned diploma until your loan is out of default status. This may mean you will have to pay off the loan or pay a dedicated amount for a period of time.

The demands of medical school can take a heavy toll on your social life.

The demands of medical school can take a heavy toll on your social life.

3. You Lose Most of Your Relationships in Med School

Considering the sheer volume of material most first- and second-year medical students have to commit to working memory in addition to the constant barrage of exams (oral, written, and practical), there is little time for anything else than lectures, studying for exams, or reviewing. Any relationship (partner, parents, spouse, kids, pet cat) will all be put on a remote back burner for at least the next seven years (see number four).

4. Any Relationships You Have Left, You Will Lose Them in Residency

Yeah! You made it through all that studying, so now you can relax, right? Wrong! You will still have daily pop quizzes in the form of real, live patients who mistakenly think you know what you are doing. During your residency, you are constantly learning how to perform new procedures, new diseases, and more.

You will have to prepare patient presentations for your colleagues and upper-level staff members (called “Grand Rounds”); you will have to keep up with a certain amount of continuing medical education (CME) hours (there are tests at the end of these to ensure you comprehend the material covered in the articles or lectures).

You will have no time between work, more studying and test-taking, presentation preparation, and fact-finding for any of the fool hearty in your life who managed to stick around until residency.

5. You Have to Take the USMLE Board Exams

In order to become licensed to practice, every medical student must take (and pass) all four parts of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) tests: Part 1, Part 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK), Part 2 Clinical Skills (CS), and Part 3. The total combined cost for these important examinations is over $3000. Parts 1, 2 CK, and 3 are over eight hours in length each.

Your scores on these exams determine which residency you will get into successfully and then, ultimately, where and with whom you will practice for the rest of your career. (As though the USMLE tests weren’t enough, each specialty has its own board test, which you must pass in order to be deemed minimally qualified for the specialty.)

There are board examination prep courses, classes, and materials available, but if you thought the tests were costly, try shoveling out over $4000 for a prep course for just one exam. If you don’t pass, you have to pay for the exam again (between $605 and $1,280 this year: the price will increase an additional $5 per exam in 2018), but the good news is if you took a prep course before you flagged the test, then you get to take the prep course all over again for free with most course providers. Lucky you!

6. You Will (Literally) Get Sick of It

Every medical student and resident will get really ill at some point. If the stress, lack of sleep and proper exercise, and poor eating habits inherent with becoming an MD weren’t enough, you do your medical school clinical rotations and entire work-life afterward surrounded by the ill and infirmed. I remember once being told, “People don’t come to the hospital to get well; there are sick people in the hospital.”

It’s the truth. Healthy people don’t sleep in hospital beds, nor do they hang out in patient waiting rooms. As a healthcare professional, you are constantly surrounded by the infected and infectious. What’s worse is the fact you daily bring all those germs home with you—to your spouse, kids, pets, and anyone or anything else with whom you come into contact.

7. If You Don't Go All the Way Through Residency and Get Board Certified, You Might as Well Never Have Gone to Med School in the First Place

Without the successful completion of your residency, board exams, and licensing procedures, you have earned yourself a professional degree which is basically useless. You can’t practice as a nurse (separate licensing procedure), a CNA (they have a licensing procedure, also), or in any other healthcare-related job. Listing the awesome fact you have earned an MD on job applications will brand you “overqualified,” and you won’t get jobs. Not listing it is applicant deception (at the end of most applications, you are required to verify you have been truthful in the process).

8. You Will Never Cure Anyone

If you apply for medical school with the noble intention of curing the world, you are in for a huge disappointment. A devastating reality to most new physicians is the cruel fact no one is ever cured: diseases go into remission, and pain is palliated, but no true cures exist.

9. If You are a Female Physician and Get Pregnant, Your Fellow Physicians Will Resent You

For the aspiring female physician who is intent on having children during her internship/residency, the mere fact you will be lawfully given at least six weeks for maternity leave will enrage your fellow residents. Of course, they all will state their happiness for your impending bundle of joy but will ensure you pay for your post-partum vacay.

Remember, you will work throughout your entire pregnancy: that means being on call every two to four nights at the hospital, making many patient rounds daily, doing procedures, and lots of standing on your feet throughout those nine months, regardless of lower extremity swelling, back pain, urinary frequency, nausea and vomiting, and mood swings.

When you return, your passive-aggressive fellow residents will expect you to pay them back for all the nights of call they covered for you while you were up with your newborn, all the patient visits they took over for you while you were constantly tending to your newborn, and more.

10. Becoming an MD May Require Real Commitment

Physicians have an incredibly high rate of addiction. One study found that 69 percent of physicians abuse prescription meds due to the stresses and physical pains which come with the job. High rates of alcoholism are also found in physicians, particularly among female surgeons. If/when you are caught, you will have to go to rehab (be institutionalized) in the hopes you will be able to practice again. The stark reality is if you go to rehab once, you will probably go again as relapse rates are high.

The Toll on Mental Health

Depression is rampant among practicing physicians. The lack of a quality home life, destroyed relationships, dealing with patient problems on a constant basis (obsessing over one’s patients’ problems), competition among practitioners, business-related issues for the private doctors, and any other mental woes which were present before becoming an MD all contribute to the high suicide rates, particularly among psychiatrists. Suicide among MDs is more than twice as common compared with the general population, according to a recent article in the Southern Medical Journal. If/when you try to kill yourself, you will likely be institutionalized, as the law requires at least a 72-hour commitment for patient evaluation.

Take my advice (and your cash) and ride off into the sunset in bliss.

Take my advice (and your cash) and ride off into the sunset in bliss.

Grow Up to Be a Business Manager or Childhood Educator (or Even a Cowboy)

Take it from a person who has been through it: save your own sanity, save your relationships, and save your money. You should go to graduate school and get a degree in business management or childhood education (these two areas have the lowest suicide rates among women and men, respectively). With the money you save, you can always buy a ranch and some cattle and grow up to be a cowboy.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.