Should I Become a Doctor?Posted: January 24, 2011
It is funny how many people would make great doctors but never give it much consideration. It is annoying how many people end up as doctors who do not like their jobs. They come to work with pissy attitudes and complain about everything. These are the people who became doctors for the wrong reasons.
Anyone considering a career in medicine should be familiar with some of the less pleasant realities, because you will not be able to avoid them. If you are asking yourself, “should I become a doctor?” here are 5 things to consider as you make your decision. No one wants you to end up as just another annoying, dissatisfied doctor.
- A career in medicine is hard, and not in a romantic way. Many people think that if something is hard, then it must be worth doing. Simply put, that is a stupid reason to choose a career in medicine. There are plenty of good reasons to choose a career in medicine, and for some people these make it worth putting up with the hard stuff. If you choose medicine, it should be in spite of how hard it is, not because of how hard it is. Medicine can be a great career if it suits you, but know also that it is normal to work over 50 hours per week and still end up on call on nights and weekends. Your sleep schedule will get screwed up, and you won’t have much free time compared with the average professional. This is just the price of admission; it is the first of many sacrifices you must make. A career in medicine compromises a “normal” life. How much can you give up and still be a happy, competent doctor?
- You are not allowed to make mistakes. Personal injury attorneys are waiting to max out your malpractice insurance and then go after your personal assets…your house, your cars, your retirement fund, and the money you set aside for your childrens education. What’s more, literature suggests that roughly half of all malpractice trials are frivolous…the plaintiff and the attorney don’t have any evidence to support a case, but they want to see if a judge or jury will rule in their favor anyway. Astonishingly, doctors lose about 30% of these frivolous cases. When accused of malpractice, many impeccable doctors settle out of court (even when they know that they have done nothing wrong), simply to avoid such an unreliable system. According to Forbes, win or lose, the average cost of defending yourself in a malpractice suit is about $93,000. Can you deal with that kind of pressure?
- Doctoring is not glamorous. Doctors take care of sick people, and sick people are not always attractive, friendly and clean like the ones on Grey’s Anatomy. What’s more, taking care of them often involves unpleasant duties. Depending on your specialty you may just get to shove a camera up a person’s anus, saw through their bones, irradiate them, pump them full of chemicals that make their hair fall out and their mouth blister. You will get to break every kind of bad news there is. Being a doctor comes with some great responsibilities, but no one gets to skip the unpleasant ones.
- Dealing with insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid is an interminable hassle, but your paycheck depends on it. To make a long story short, costs of practicing medicine in the U.S. are rising, while insurance reimbursements paid to doctors are decreasing. There are no remedies to the U.S. health care dilemma that involve doctors making more money. Physicians are going to have to settle for less pay in the future. The pay will still be good, but there are a lot of ways to make a six-figure income in America. There are a lot of ways in business to make $200,000 – $300,000 that involve fewer hours, less training, and less liability. The people who go into medicine to make a paycheck are the unhappy ones. Happy doctors are the ones who love the act and the art of doctoring and know that the money will take care of itself. However, the cost of a medical education is astronomical. So, if you succumb to $200,000 in debt for medical school, and weak health care economics leave you with a sub $100K salary, you will have to be resourceful to make your loan payments. Know that becoming a doctor does not entitle you to awesome finances.
- You have to learn an absurd amount of information, not all of which is interesting. Personally, I like understanding how kidneys work, and I like knowing that there are over 80 openings in a human skull and specific nerves and vessels pass through each one. I hated chemistry lab. Other people love chem and biochem, and don’t like kidneys. This is why choosing a career is a very personal decision. Do your likes outweigh your dislikes? Is it even close?
The more you learn about medicine, the harder a push you should feel either toward or away from becoming a doctor. If you have seen what medicine is about and you are still on the fence, don’t bother.