As a current medical student, I often encounter students considering a health care career. Understandably, this career is appealing. Being a physician lets you make a positive impact on people’s lives, along with many other benefits. However, becoming a physician is not a straightforward decision and requires a lot of thought, consideration, and sacrifice. This blog post, written for anyone considering medical school, will explore the pros and cons of becoming a physician. But before I do that, I want to discuss some common, bad reasons to pursue this career.
Bad reason: money
One of the first things that many students consider when choosing a career path is the potential for financial stability. It is no secret that health care jobs, including medical doctors, can offer high compensation. However, it is important to note that becoming a physician or other health care provider is a long and expensive journey. Medical school is a significant financial investment and can take over 10+ years of education and training. Additionally, health care providers, such as physicians, work long hours and can face stress and burnout, leading to decreased job satisfaction. From my experience as a medical student and talking with many different physicians, this career is not worth it if you only consider the salary. There are other, better options when compared to other STEM careers like computer science or engineering.
Bad reason: external pressures
Becoming a physician is a significant and demanding commitment, and it’s important to consider your own motivations before embarking on such a journey. Pursuing medicine solely because your parents want you to be a doctor is not a strong enough foundation. It’s critical to reflect on what you truly want and what drives you rather than simply following in someone else’s footsteps. Pursuing a career because of external pressure or societal expectations can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction. Take the time to consider your own passions and desires truly. To help, I will have some reflection questions near the end of this article.
Alternative careers that serve others
Becoming a physician may be a great option if your primary goal is to serve others and make a positive impact. However, many ways to serve others do not involve medical school. For example, students with a strong interest in technology may consider careers in computer science. Software development provides the opportunity to create innovative solutions to improve people’s lives. Another option is a career in business management, focusing on the efficient functioning of organizations (including health care). For those interested in health care but not in direct patient care, health care administration may be a good option as well. Health care administration provides the opportunity to contribute to the health care system in a more behind-the-scenes role. There are many other options as well. Honestly, most careers in modern society will directly/indirectly serve other people’s needs, so becoming a physician is not the only path to assisting others.
The importance of passion in health care
Because of physicians’ immense challenges, it is critical to have a passion for health care. A career in health care, particularly as a physician, is not just a job but a calling. It requires a deep commitment to serving others, even in difficult circumstances. Health care providers work in a fast-paced, high-stress environment and are often called upon to make life-or-death decisions. They must be able to handle the emotional toll of caring for patients in their most vulnerable moments.
The reward of relieving suffering
Despite everything I have written, pursuing a career in health care can also be incredibly rewarding. Obviously, I chose this career path and would choose nothing else. Health care providers have the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives every single day. They can relieve suffering, improve health outcomes, and comfort those in need. If you enter health care for the right reasons, it can be a source of immense satisfaction and fulfillment.
Self-reflection as you consider becoming a physician
Self-reflection is important in considering whether health care is the right path for you. Evaluating your motivations and intentions in pursuing this career is important. Ask yourself questions like the ones below. Answering these questions truthfully can give you a better understanding of your own desires and motivators. Discussing your answers to these questions with a premed advisor, family member, or mentor may be helpful.
What draws me to medicine?
Am I more interested in the prestige and status of being a physician, or am I truly passionate about helping others?
Do I have a strong desire to relieve the suffering of others and make a real impact on people’s lives?
Am I willing to put in the hard work and sacrifice necessary to become a physician?
Becoming a physician is a significant decision that requires careful consideration of many factors. Pursuing a career in health care can be a demanding journey, but it can also be gratifying, personally and professionally. If you are considering a career as a physician, take the time to reflect on your motivations and make an informed decision based on your values, interests, and abilities.
Timothy Dillinger is a medical student.