Becoming a doctor is considered by many to be the pinnacle of professional success. The long years of intense education and training required to practice medicine certainly demand admiration. However, the glamorized perception of being a physician falls short for many who pursue this path.
Medicine is an incredibly challenging, demanding and often thankless career. Before committing your life to this profession, it is wise to deeply reflect on your motivations and personality to determine if practicing medicine aligns with your values and aspirations.
This article will explore four signs that a medical career may not be the right fit for you. Carefully evaluating these indicators can help you make a more informed decision about your career path.
You Are Pursuing Medicine Mainly Due to Parental Pressure
If your primary motivation to attend medical school is to satisfy expectations from your parents or family, seriously reconsider this career choice. Parental pressure is one of the worst reasons to become a doctor.
I have witnessed many students struggle through medical training solely to appease their family’s wishes. Few complete the journey happily. Most either quit during medical school or express deep regrets about their decision later in training. Some even admit feeling trapped in medicine due to hefty student loans or fear of disgracing their family.
While disappointing your family by changing career paths won’t be easy, it will likely be far less painful than quitting after investing significant time, effort and debt into your medical education. Be true to yourself and what you really want from your career and life. Don’t let family pressures steer you down an unwanted path.
You Dislike Interacting with People
Medicine is a profoundly people-oriented profession. If you do not genuinely enjoy working with people, a medical career will become a miserable grind.
Some believe pathology or radiology allow you to avoid patients. This is false. You will still need to interact regularly with care teams to consult on lab and imaging findings. Surgeons spend ample time with patients in clinic and in pre- and post-op settings.
Moreover, patients are not always appreciative of your care. Kindness, compassion and patience are essential physician attributes. If you lack these qualities, practicing medicine will be challenging.
Take time to deeply reflect on your temperament. If you are easily frustrated with other’s mistakes or struggle to find empathy for those unlike yourself, consider directing your career elsewhere.
You Are Allergic to Hard Work
Intelligence alone will not carry you through medical training or practice. Persistence and work ethic are far more pivotal. The breadth of knowledge required of physicians is vast. Memorization, more than critical thinking, is essential to succeed in medical school. Even students who excelled previously often crumble under the intense workload.
Residency demands long hours and continued intense learning. Attending life, while better, still requires 40-60 hour work weeks for most specialties. Surgeons often work even longer hours.
Medicine is not a 9-5 career. If you shy away from hard work or long hours, do not pursue this profession. Playing catch-up later in training after falling behind will be extremely difficult. Starting this journey without the grit required to push through immense challenges is a recipe for failure and misery.
Your Passion Lies Elsewhere
Lastly, if becoming a physician is not your primary focus in life, medicine is the wrong path. To be successful in this field, it must be a central priority.
Having outside interests as a medical student or doctor is wise for life balance. However, time intensive side-pursuits often undermine medical training and practice.
Medical school policies often prohibit working during training. The rigors of residency make side-hustles nearly impossible. Attending schedules, especially in surgical fields, involve long hours that leave little time for other endeavors.
If your passion lies with entrepreneurship, research, writing or other fields beyond clinical practice, make those your career focus. Attempting to straddle medicine alongside other highly demanding interests rarely ends well.
You will shortchange your medical training while making little headway in other pursuits you care deeply about. Give your all to the area which brings you the most fulfillment professionally.
These four signs are not meant to deter all prospective students from a medical path. For the right individual, being a doctor can be immensely rewarding. However, medicine requires immense sacrifice over many years. It is not a decision to make lightly. Take time to deeply reflect on your motivations, values, abilities and passions to determine if this career aligns with your aspirations.