Ellie (yes, her actual real name™) is a sophomore in high school and emailed me a few days ago with a series of questions. She is considering medical school but doesn't want to endure the years of education. So she reconsidered with . . . you know, she can tell her story better than I can. Take it away, Ellie!
And before anyone asks, yes she gave me permission to use her real name. No really, she did, and that's her real name. I didn't change it or anything. Honest!Hi Doc! My name is Ellie (The same one that commented on your blog about vaccines :p). I’m a sophomore in high school and since about 6th grade I’ve been considering a job in healthcare. However, I’m really afraid I don’t have what it takes to be in healthcare. I’ve thought about being a surgeon, but I couldn’t do 12+ years of school. I’ve thought about being an EMT, but their pay is less than many other in a healthcare field. I’ve thought about being a nurse, but I’m afraid I’m not compassionate enough.You’ve written lots on your blog about how you’ve always wanted to be a doctor, but how did you know that you would be right for the job? What kind of people should go into the healthcare field and what kind of traits do healthcare workers need?Part of why I’m interested in healthcare is I want to help people. I’m definitely not the most selfless person, but when I have the skills, I love to help people. I always get this warm and fuzzy feeling when I help other students who don’t understand the lesson and I’m sure that would translate to healthcare.Lastly, what kind of jobs would you suggest for teenagers looking to join the medical field (if you can think of any).Thank you so much,Ellie
Anyway, those are excellent questions, Ellie (still her real name™). Let me see if I can answer them with some semblance of a logical order.
Whatever job you select, it should be something you love, and if you truly love it, you should pursue it however necessary. Do you love the idea of being a surgeon? Does the thought of being anything else make you feel as sad as everyone in the theatre felt towards the end of Inside Out (seriously, if you haven't seen that movie, go see it)? If the answers to these questions are "yes", then nothing should stop you, even 12+ years of school/medical training. If you settle for anything less, you will never forgive yourself. Just like you should never settle on a partner, you should never settle on a career.
Nursing is an excellent option, and though you may not think you are terribly compassionate now, you would probably surprise yourself. You obviously enjoy helping people, and there is really no career out there like nursing when it comes to helping. Sure, doctors get most of the credit. But it's the nurses who are always there, always checking on people, changing bed linens, cleaning bedpans, helping people sit up, fetching water, going for pain pills. Ok, perhaps that doesn't sound very glamorous, but trust me, when you need help in the hospital, who are you going to ask? A doctor? Ha! The best response you're likely to get from a doctor is, "Let me find your nurse". Nurses are by and large extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, and I consider myself lucky that people choose that career.
How did I know medicine would be right for me? I didn't. It was a gamble, a calculated risk. There was always a possibility that I would graduate from medical school, start my surgical training, and realise, God damn it, I hate this shit. There were people in my medical school class who dropped out for various reasons, and I knew several people that quit in the middle of surgical training. Medicine probably is not for everyone, surgery certainly so. So who is right for it? What attributes should people have to go into medicine?
- Ethics - You'll sometimes have to make difficult decisions, even life-and-death decisions. If your moral fibre is not strong, you should not be here,
- Judgment - See #1
- Intelligence - You don't need to be the smartest person in the world, but there's a lot to learn. Dummies need not apply and should probably stick to law. Just kidding, lawyer friends.
- Endurance - Long hours, overtime, and little sleep is the norm. If you need a solid 8 hours of sleep per night, you should probably look elsewhere.
As for jobs that a young person seeking a career in medicine should pursue, the tendency is to volunteer at a hospital. If I were interviewing candidates for medical school, my response to that would be, "YAAAAAAAAAWN". Not that volunteering at a hospital isn't useful or educational for everyone involved, it's just BORING. Every prospective medical student has seemingly done their time as a hospital volunteer. So if that's what you'd like to do, it's probably fine. It'll most likely get you by. But if you really want to stand out from the herd (and trust me, you do) then do something different. I volunteered reading books onto tape for blind students and at a free park clinic for the homeless. Both jobs were extremely rewarding, and they stimulated many conversations with interviewers.
There are tons of options out there for teenagers looking to do something. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Pitch in at a shelter for battered spouses. Clean up the roadway. Read books to the elderly at a senior center. You'll probably be surprised just how satisfying those jobs can be.
I hope that answers your questions sufficiently. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get back to writing my next Daily Beast article. Hmm, now that I think about it, it doesn't seem like I'm actually that lazy after all. Good.