CAREER CHECK: Why do you want to be a doctor?
IN EVERY CAREER PATH, there are always obstacles to overcome and rewards to keep us going.
Knowing what you are naturally good at, however, does not always help in choosing the right career, since in practicality the job might be very different from what you know about it in theory.
When you’re out of college or university, you might be almost certain of the career you’re going to pick because you think you have what it takes and have even excelled in college or university.
Once you are thrown into the field, however, it is a whole new world of discovery.
For some unknown reason and for as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a doctor. Since my father is a doctor, everyone who knew what I wanted to be “when I grew up” thought it was because of family pressure or simply because I wanted to follow my father’s lead.
But my dad and I both know that it has nothing to do with that; we even have our own inside joke about it (since I want to be a surgeon and my dad is medical, I make fun of him prescribing medicine and “doing nothing” and he makes fun of me for wanting to “do” but not “think”).
After a rogue phase in high school I had tons of tests and subjects to study in a very limited timeframe. The only thing that made me get through everything with good grades was my passion to be a surgeon.
My knowledge of myself was somewhat accurate; by the time I finished my first year in medical school I had my confirmation that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Due to financial reasons, however, I dropped out and since then it has been a long 5-year break.
I recently got accepted back into another medical school and the lifelong dream has been revived once again, but after that long break and a lot of things that I have learned throughout the way I was forced to ask myself, again, why in the world would I still want to be a doctor?
I have been into several lines of work during my break and with some first-hand experience on studying medicine, personal observations of my dad and hospital environment, the pros and cons of being a doctor became much clearer.
Mostly people think that being a doctor is an accomplishment and that there are more upsides to downsides, but in my experience the pros of being a doctor are also its own cons.
The financial upside
It is true that doctor makes a lot of money, and most young medical students would admit that they were “in it for the money too”. However, the fees to enter any medical school are significantly more than the fees for any other course in the same university.
Assuming that you are financially supported enough to do so, everybody you ever know from high school would still begin their independence before you do since the duration of medical courses are usually 5-6 years long (actually, 7 years in Egypt). Finally once you graduate and do start working as a doctor, it would take you a few more years to earn a decent pay since you will still need training, sometimes 8 years when it comes to surgeons.
Once you do earn the title it is pretty sweet, for about a few days, until you realise that being called and known for being a doctor adds both social and personal pressure. Despite the stereotype that all medical students are nerds and science geeks, most of them do have a life and know how to have fun. While you do occasionally get to party and get hammered or let loose while in university, there wouldn’t be a single patient who would trust you with their dog’s life if they knew about it.
Once you start being a doctor you wouldn’t have much time for a social life to begin with. If you do manage to have one, regardless of where you are, what you are doing and who you are with you still would need to “act” like a doctor. Your reputation as a doctor is directly linked to your reputation as a person…good luck with that.
Similarly, among family and friends you are a hybrid of who you really are and a doctor, that guy that they are all used to and a 24/7 freelance consultant.
When someone is having stomach problems, they don’t care whether you are a podiatrist (foot doctor) or a dermatologist (skin doctor) you are required by social obligation to “give it your best estimate”.
While people face the same problem in a lot of professions, people tend to get more “weird” stomach pains than legal issues or construction integrity issues. At parties and social events you are somewhat expected to be one of the smartest people in the room, because let’s face it, no one likes an indecisive or a stupid doctor.
Doctors don’t save lives; they TRY THEIR BEST to delay death.
Gather a group of medical students and a group of doctors in separate rooms and ask the students why they want to be doctors, and hear the chuckles from the doctors when they hear “save a life”. In the medical field you are faced with death and disease and not many people can handle that as part of their lives.
Whether it appeals to your inner narcissist, messiah complex or the joy from relieving pain, almost all doctors like to help people. They are not gods or miracle workers; they read about how many ways the body can go wrong, see it enough to recognise it faster and repeat.
The more uncommon the problem is, the less doctors who can fix it simply because not all doctors can train for all problems even in their own fields. As simple as that may sound, it is the closest estimate to what realistically doctors are capable of.
However, people always have a grand vision of doctors that can sometimes cause unnecessary disappointment and pressure when it is not lived up to. Knowing your limits and capabilities as a doctor takes years for doctors to realise.
With great power comes great responsibility, and dealing with a huge responsibility caused by the knowledge of helping people is not an easy task. The amount of pressure that comes along with the job is not only limited to the medicine but also extends to taking care of people’s emotional and mental states.
After all the hardship that comes from being in that position, though the feeling you get from helping someone towards a better life is undeniably sweet.
No matter how much I know about how it is life to be a doctor based on close observation, and about how it’s like to try being one, I know that it I wouldn’t know everything until I become one.
So why the hell would I still want to be a doctor? With the money coming way later, limited time for social life and a huge burden on and off the job?
The answer is simply, passion.
You see, it doesn’t matter what upside and downsides a career has because at the end of the day it is the passion for it that makes a bitter-sweet moment worth it all. Every career takes a specific set of skills to be able to excel in, but even when you come up short on some passion is the only force that can be compensation for any skill.
So whether you are a party animal, afraid of blood or not good with people, if you want it bad enough and passionate for it you will overcome any obstacle and reach your dream career.
Photos and memes of screencaps from Scrubs Season 9 compiled by Fouad Alaa