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Medicine as a Career

The Challenge Ahead

As noted, medicine can be a most attractive and fulfilling profession, but before one seriously embarks upon the journey to become a physician, it is most essential to fully recognize the potential obstacles that lie ahead and that need be overcome. These can be briefly summarized as follows:

  • • a lengthy and vigorous period of premedical education as an undergraduate.
  • • an intensely competitive medical school admission process to secure a place.
  • • a lengthy and most challenging program of medical education and training.
  • • a need to pass standardized national exams as a medical student to graduate.
  • • a formidable challenge to select an appropriate residency training area appointment at a suitable medical teaching facility.
  • • a multiyear arduous period of graduate clinical responsibility as a resident.
  • • a possible need to secure a fellowship for advanced subspecialty training.
  • • a need to pass specialty examinations to qualify for “board” certification.
  • • a need to secure recertification at later intervals in one's career.
  • • a need to overcome obstacles associated with establishing a practice.

In addition to the aforementioned hurdles, the fact is that physicians face potentially long working hours, stressful situations, and a need to cope with governmental or managed care bureaucratic obstacles. It is therefore not surprising that reliable surveys suggest that a significant number of doctors have serious doubts about recommending their profession to others, including members of their own family.

In light of the rewards and obstacles of medicine as a career, you are well advised to give outmost serious consideration to the true nature of your motives and the strength of your convictions to achieve your goal. After all the above facts are considered, you will need to answer the following two fundamental questions, to the best of your ability, namely:

  1. Do I have genuinely valid motives that serve to compel me to choose medicine as a career?
  2. Do I have the necessary perseverance to retain my career commitment in the face of numerous potential impediments that extend over many years of schooling and training?

If you elicit affirmative responses to these basic, critical questions, you will feel much more confident to proceed ahead. This guidance and self-assessment manual (see Appendix A, page 618) is designed to facilitate your coming up with the correct answer to these questions so that you achieve the goal that is in your best interest.

Bottom Line

Although there are a minority of physicians who will not recommend the medical profession to others, and some who are genuinely unhappy with their lot, the conclusion from these observations in reality is

  • • Medicine is not a profession for everyone, no matter how bright or talented they are.
  • • The bulk of physicians enjoy their work and are fully satisfied with their career choice.
  • • Thoughtful consideration through self-assessment, meaningful exposure, and competent guidance from an advisor and/or recognized occupational test can assist you in making the appropriate career choice.
  • • If you can anticipate any specific problems, such as poor interview skills, a low grade in a critical required science course, etc., seek advice, and consider reasonable steps to overcome handicaps before they become a liability.
  • • If faced with a complex problem, try, if possible, to dismantle it into smaller components that may allow you to better manage the situation.
  • • Generate within yourself the self-confidence that assures you that you are on the right path. However, be prepared to make course corrections when it is both reasonable and essential to do so.
  • • Try to always be of good cheer, even in the face of formidable obstacles. This can be achieved by trying to find a brighter side to things to help you overcome many issues and ultimately attain your goal.
  • • There are about 20,000 freshmen slots open in allopathic and osteopathic medical institutions that need to be filled annually. You need to be accepted by only one, when all is said and done. If you feel you really deserve a spot, and have only a fair chance of getting it, seek to get it with all you've got!

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesGuide to Medical & Dental SchoolsMedicine as a Career - On Being A Physician, Why Study Medicine?, The Reality Of A Physician's Career