What do you do when you get to class (or in my case, rotations) way too early?
It was a dreary, freezing day in December. I showed up exactly at 8:00 AM for my pain and palliative care rotation. No one was around. There were no other medical students. There were no doctors. So logically, I pulled out my smartphone (alright, it is technically an iPod Touch) and began surfing the internet.
I typed in something about medical school not being worth it and came across a very, very accurate article titled, Expert’s New Career Prescription: Forget About Becoming a Doctor.
I seriously could not write a better article detailing why going to medical school will be the worst mistake of your life, if you are not passionate about medicine.
Here’s why …
5 Reasons Why You Should Not Go to Medical School
“The cost is too great, and it’s a lousy job,” he said. “The minute you say to me that you want to be a physician, it’s tantamount to saying you want to be an indentured servant.”
Jones said he feels so strongly in part because medical school tuition can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars …
“Most people think physicians overwhelmingly are rich,” he said. “But many of them are saddled with an enormous debt load that takes years to repay. Some never make up the ground.”
2. Medical training takes way too much time (and pays way too little).
… and the time investment, depending on whether the student wants, for example, to be an internist or surgeon or orthopedist, can consume years of his or her life.
“Then after medical school, you’re working 80 to 100 hours a week for about $40,000 a year as a resident,” Jones said.
Residencies are usually three to seven years, depending on the specialty.
3. You are not guaranteed a residency spot after medical school. Without finishing at least one year of residency (or more, depending on the state’s medical law), you cannot practice medicine.
Jones said another major problem is that there are fewer places for students to do their residencies. In February, the American Medical Association asked Congress to retain Medicare funding for residency programs and increase the limit on the number of available residency slots to address a shortage of doctors.
Last spring, about 900 U.S. medical students weren’t matched to a residency.
And, yet, the number of students graduating from medical schools has grown steadily. The Association of American Medical Colleges says that a decade ago, there were 15,531 graduates from U.S. medical schools. In 2012, there were 17,341 graduates.
“You have to do a residency to get a license,” Jones said. “There are fewer residency slots available to finish your training today than in 1975. It’s a regular supply and demand issue. And hospitals get to pay people what they want and work you however they want.”
4. There isn’t a physician shortage. Thus, there is a chance you will not get a job, even as a doctor.
There has been a lot of talk about the need for more doctors, particularly in light of the health care overhaul. I asked Jones whether the Affordable Care Act, which is expected to bring an estimated 30 million more patients into the health care system, changes his perspective regarding medical school as an option for his students.
He said it doesn’t. Although the health care system will need to be revamped in many ways, he believes that physician assistants and advanced practice nurses will help take up the slack. Over the last decade, the number of physician assistants has more than doubled to about 93,000 today, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, which expects the number to continue to rise dramatically.
5. Technology may make doctors obsolete in the future.
“The cost to go to school is just going to get higher,” he said. “Besides, the technology is moving so fast. As more and more procedures are being done by robots and computers, there will be less of a need for humans to do this. It’s a trend that will only accelerate.”
Become a Physician Assistant Instead
If you want to make decent money in medicine, without all the disadvantages of being a doctor, become a physician assistant (PA).
First, school is shorter — it will only take you 3 years to become a PA, instead of 4 years to become a MD or DO. Thus, you won’t have such a huge debt. And you can make money faster.
Second, you don’t have to do a residency. Therefore, you can make more money right out of school. (And as a side note, isn’t it a bit strange how newly-graduated physician assistants, who has less schooling, make more money than newly-graduated doctors?)
Third, whatever physician shortage there may be can be easily filled by PA’s.
Fourth, physician assistants can perform the same quality of care, even though they have less training, due to the advances in technology. Who’s to say that medicine won’t be automated in a future, with robots doing most of the heavy-lifting.
(If you’re a nurse, you can become a nurse practitioner instead of a PA.)
Jones said this is a good alternative for students who love medicine and want to help heal people.
“Many physician assistants already do what physicians do and, in some cases, do it better,” Jones said. “Their patient outcomes can be better and they go to school for fewer years and don’t do residencies or have the same debt. A lot of them don’t even need to consult with anyone to manage care.”
Listen to Jones. He knows what he’s talking about.
You have been warned.
This article is part of the Get into Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about getting accepted into medical school.