Here at International Medical Aid, we spend a lot of time talking about all the positive aspects of becoming a doctor. There are a lot of amazing aspects to having a career in medicine. Saving lives is one of them. But we sometimes wear rose-colored glasses and only focus on the positives. Becoming a doctor is a lot of work. It’s well worth it to many doctors. But for some, they wish they had taken a different career path. Only about half of doctors are happy with their careers.
So, in today’s article, we’re going to look at nine reasons why you shouldn’t become a doctor. If these reasons apply to you, you might want to reconsider a career in medicine. We also invite you to reach out to us with any questions you might have. Medical school admissions consulting sometimes means discussing whether you want to be a doctor. We hope this article plays a factor in helping you decide whether medicine is the right career for you.
Medical school takes a long time.
Medical school takes a long time to complete. You begin with your undergraduate studies and then go on to medical school. Between the two, you have eight years of education. But education alone isn’t enough. Knowledge has to be turned into a useful skill set that’s properly performed in the workplace. That’s where residency comes in. Residency takes at least three years, depending on the program in which you’re enrolled. Sometimes after residency, a fellowship is also required. A fellowship can take at least three years to complete.
You’re looking at 12 years of education to become a doctor. You’ll start earning money once you begin your residency, but you won’t earn a full doctor’s salary. And the salary you do earn will vary based on your specialty. Many unsatisfied doctors cite a long, drawn-out education for why they regret becoming a doctor.
Student loans add up quickly.
Some students luck out when it comes to student loans. They might get subsidized tuition, receive a full-ride scholarship or have a wealthy relative. But for many students, financial aid — including student loans — is the only way to get through medical school. The average medical school student graduates with over $150,000 in debt. Because doctors don’t start earning a full salary until they’ve completed residency and fellowship requirements, it takes a long time to pay off all their loans. Having to pay hundreds a month for the education you received bites. It can take at least a decade before it’s all paid off. Many unhappy doctors cite having too much debt as a reason for regretting medical school.
Insurance companies have too much control.
To successfully establish a medical practice, most doctors work with insurance companies. The insurance companies are how doctors earn money. If all the money a doctor made came from copays, they could never earn a living. But if doctors charged patients out-of-pocket for their services, patients could never afford to see a doctor. Insurance companies are the middle ground that allows patients to see a doctor and allow the doctor to earn a living treating their patients. It’s a dream come true, right?
Not exactly. Insurance companies are lined with red tape at the entrance and exit, and everywhere in between. They are very strict regarding what they will and won’t cover. Because of this, doctors must work with the insurance companies to ensure that a service will be covered. Otherwise, the doctor risks not getting paid for services rendered.
Insurance companies hold a great deal of control over what happens. Doctors must get approval from a patient’s insurance company before they can run tests. This greatly frustrates some doctors who want to provide outstanding medical care for their patients. If the insurance company won’t approve a test or procedure, and if the patient can’t pay for it out of pocket, then the doctor must choose between their patient and getting paid for their work.
It’s too much work for too little money.
The title “doctor” is often associated with wealth. Because doctors have a difficult job, people assume they earn a lot of money. While they earn more than some professions, they don’t earn as much as many people think. And they don’t often earn their full paycheck. Many doctors spend well over a decade paying back their student loans. They are required to have malpractice insurance, which costs thousands per year, and they often work long hours when they have hospital rotations. Many doctors feel underpaid for the work they do.
There’s too much paperwork involved.
Remember the red tape involved with insurance companies? Well, that red tape comes with lots of paperwork. While most doctors have an office manager or receptionist, they often find themselves filling out paperwork, too. The average doctor reports spending an average of 10 hours per week filling out paperwork. That’s one-quarter of their workweek. No one wants to fill out paperwork, but especially not a doctor who spends over forty hours per week treating patients. Nonetheless, doctors must fill out paperwork to keep their practice in compliance with insurance and other legalities.
Malpractice lawsuits suck.
All doctors must have malpractice insurance, or they could lose everything when a disgruntled patient decides to sue them. While the law protects doctors who are properly practicing medicine, the law doesn’t protect them from the long, drawn-out process of a lawsuit.
Did you know that a single lawsuit can take years to resolve? It’s stressful having a lawsuit hanging over your head for that long. Over 90 percent of doctors win these lawsuits, but there’s the 10 percent who don’t. And every doctor worries about being in that ten percent. Losing a lawsuit could cost a doctor their career.
The malpractice insurance that doctors must carry is expensive. Doctors are required to carry that insurance to protect them throughout their careers. So, doctors pay to be protected against lawsuits from patients they are just trying to help. (Now, there are bad doctors out there who deserve to be sued. But that’s a different topic for another article.) Malpractice is a dreaded thought but a reality that doctors live with every day.
It’s too stressful and demanding.
Some doctors work in private practice and have hours that are strictly nine to five. However, most doctors aren’t so lucky. Many are constantly on call and can’t get a decent night’s sleep. Others carry the weight of their patients’ illnesses on their shoulders.
No matter how a doctor handles their practice, it’s stressful and demanding. The stress and demand of the job affect every doctor differently. And it’s not something you can prepare for because most doctors don’t know how they’ll handle their practice until they get there. Things often affect us differently than we think they will. Medicine can truly be a stressful and demanding career.
It’s hard to have a work-life balance.
Did you know that nearly 30 percent of all doctors are divorced? It’s a common thread that runs through the medical community because doctors are so overworked that their family lives get neglected. Some doctors care more about treating patients than they do about their personal relationships. Other doctors care about their families, but they have a demanding schedule that often interferes with family plans.
Imagine having a date with your spouse, only to get called to the ER because you need to perform an emergency C-section for a pregnant patient. Once or twice wouldn’t be a big deal. But it would get to anyone if it happened all the time. Having a good work-life balance can be stressful in any career field, but it’s especially difficult when another person’s health becomes your responsibility.
You have to deal with life and death.
Being a doctor certainly comes with high highs, but it also comes with low lows. Doctors treat little children with leukemia or lymphoma. They see adults with rare, complicated disorders. They get to bring positive news to a family after a successful surgery. But they are also tasked with telling a husband that his wife didn’t make it. They have to deliver bad news to patients who hope to recover.
Simply put, doctors convey the messages that test results show. They do their best to provide treatments and interventions that will save lives. But at the end of the day, no doctor can save every life. Many doctors deal with life and death. That’s not a responsibility that everyone can handle. So, if you want to become a doctor, think about how you would reconcile having a patient you couldn’t save.
So, is medical school worth it? Is being a doctor worth it? There are definitely reasons not to go to med school, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. It just means that, before you embark on a decade-long journey to becoming a doctor, you should consider whether you can handle the cons of practicing medicine.
We recommend discussing these issues with family and friends as you continue to pursue your interest in medicine. We’re also here for you through our medical school admissions consulting. Get started here. We wish you the very best as you continue your journey toward medical school.