Friday, May 06, 2005

What it's like to be a physician

Red State Moron (May 5) blogs about a program to help pre-meds determine if they are cut out to be a physician:
So Santa Clara University is helping its students determine whether they're cut out for it early, long before they even enter medical school. Pre-med students who land a much-coveted spot in a special university program shadow doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and business administrators at San Jose's O'Connor Hospital for the better part of an academic year.
They see births. And deaths. They learn how to remove a catheter and burp a baby. They watch the calming bedside manner of chaplains during a patient's final hours, and discuss how hospitals can keep financially afloat when caring for many uninsured and under-insured patients.

Being a physician isn't so bad. The money is good, usally at least $2000 annual salary per hours worked in a typical week (40 hours per week= at least 80,000, 60 hours per week = at least $120,000). The job can be stressful at times, but it's probably less stressful than working for minimum wage at McDonalds. There's a lot of flexibility; administrative positions are possibilities for those who don't like seeing patients all day.
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Being a physician is easy, it's becoming a physician that sucks. What these pre-meds need to learn is what it's like to accumulate $150,000 of debt during med school, and then watch the interest on the debt build up during residency. What it's like to work eighty hours per week during residency (when I was a Med/psych resident, there were some medicine rotations that I worked 110 hours per week on, but there are now strict caps on hours). They need to learn what it's like to spend thousands on board exams and board review courses.
The pre-meds should shadow surgery interns and see the crap they have to put up with. The program should have these pre-meds hold retractors for 6 hours during surgery and then have an attending yell at them for no apparent reason.
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Being a fully trained physician is great. Being a med student or resident sucks. Med school and residency are long hours during the best years of your life.
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I like being a doctor. I don't like the price I had to pay to get here. I don't know if I would do it all over again.

7 comments:

Mudfud said...

As someone who will be stuck in the training pipeline for quite awhile longer, I think that these programs may at least have the added benefit of giving students perspective. When all my friends are students or residents, it's difficult to imagine life at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps if I had gone through such a program, when asked "Is it really worth it?" my answer might be a more confident "yes" rather than "I think so."

may said...

i'm sure that the part about becoming a doctor that sucks the most is being an intern; but still, it's not an acceptable reason to be rude, right?

may said...

oooooppps, i didn't mean you. i meant some of the interns at work.

Anonymous said...

If you are smart enough to be a doctor, you are too smart to stay a doctor. The pay is poor and declining compared to what a smart person can earn with half the education in their own business. The liablity puts what you might earn on the line. The hours are bad, and you are not appreciated. Very glad I got out, wouldn't go near it, pity those who do.

Medical school is now a backup for kids who can't get into pharmacy college, many of whom will earn as much or more with less than half the education.

Look at the guys will the jets and big yachts. Almost none have MDs. Money isn't everything, but being barely upper middle class working 60 hours a week facing a future of declining fortunes. . . this is a good choice?

If you want to help people and you really are intelligent, make your fortune and build your town a hospital. They'll love you, people will be helped, and you can still have a life. When the phone rings at 3 AM on Christmas Eve, it'll be a wrong number and you can go back to sleep.

Almost all my peers rationalize being stuck where they are, and after some coaxing, they admit it for what it is. These guys are stuck, too old to go into something else, too limited by their education to be credible in another profession.

And in 15 years, nurse practioners will be delivering 80% of the care, so just being employed will be an issue for all but a few specialists.

Anonymous said...

The cliche is completely true. being a doctor is great, its all the other horseshit that comes with it that sucks. No way in hell my kids are doing it.

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