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Why would anyone become a doctor when you can become a PA?

11 years 15 hours ago #15833 by snowflake
Hi all,
To preface--I wrote a similar post several months ago, and thank you so much to all of you who responded to that. Since I wrote, I have thought a lot about just becoming a PA rather than a doctor, but I really don't want to regret this decision 10 years down the road. I would really appreciate any feedback. I feel so stuck, and I think all of my friends and family are tired of hearing about it! :-)

Basically, I want to work in medicine but I want to have a life outside of medicine--I'm committed to working very hard while I'm at work (it's not that I want to take the "easy way out," necessarily), I'm just really concerned that I might have real problems getting the work-life balance I need as a doctor.

I plan on having kids in the next 5/6 years, and I don't want to make my life more difficult than it has to be. It seems to me that I could advance in medicine as a PA as far as I wanted to (with the exception of surgery), and the training is much shorter, the hours appear to be better and more flexible, and the money is not bad (maybe not as high as a doctor, but in some cases just as much or more, especially comparing a part-time PA to a part-time salaried physician). Plus, being a PA has the added advantages of no residency, and of being able to work in any area of medicine throughout the career (including fields that I would never enter as a doc due to my flexibility requirements, like surgery).

So my question is, why would anyone become a doctor if you can become a PA? The only obvious benefits I can think of are potential higher income (although I'm not sure how relevant this would be to me as I wouldn't plan to work in the higher-earning fields as a doc anyway, based on my concern for flexibility), and the prestige of calling yourself Dr —
(which I admit, I'm afraid might bother me sometimes if I became a PA). Other than that, it seems like a lot of hassle, insurance to deal with, stress, and a long education time. Why not just cut all of that out and be a PA? I feel like I could be doing a very similar job with a very similar job satisfaction.

Anyone think I'm totally off-base here? Are there things I haven't considered? For the MDs, was it worth it to become a doctor? Would you advise someone in my position to become a PA or a doc?

Thanks so much for any advice--I need it!

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11 years 13 hours ago #15834 by Drme2b
Hi Snowflake,

I'm not in med school yet, but will apply next year. I totally understand your questioning. I have a friend that went to do her post-bacc at Columbia to go to med school and just decided to go to PA school instead for the same reasons you mentioned. They all absolutely make sense and I am so happy for her...but for me, I want med school.

I guess ultimately one has to think about what they would be satisfied with. I know myself, and I know that I would never be satisfied as a PA. I want the MD education, I want the residency, and ultimately I want to be the one to have the final word with my patients, I don't want to work under someone else. Yes, I know PAs work independently, but they still need a doc's ok for certain things in the end. That independence, might not seem like a big deal for some people, but it makes a huge difference to me and how I want to experience my day-to-day in life. Please don't get me wrong, I have nothing but the utmost respect for people that choose to be a PA and love it...I just know that I would not be one of those people. I am reminded all the time about how long it will take me to finish med school, residency, the healthcare system & the insane amount of money I will owe...but I don't care. I am willing to go through all of those ups and downs to do what's right for me in my heart. And only YOU know what's right for you.

I don't think I was very helpful, but I'm sure you will get a lot of great opinions on here. If it helps, I am a mom already and do plan on more kids in the future. I'll just have to balance on that tightrope when the time comes :-)

All the best! :-)

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11 years 10 hours ago #15835 by Allison

I am in the same boat! I am considering an accelerated BSN/MSN but I am so torn I feel I will have some amount of regret no matter which I decide on.
Right now, I am strongly leaning towards nursing and the reasons are mostly pretty straight forward.

I really enjoy my free time! I LOVE to spend hours playing video games and riding bikes with my kids and DH and going on trips and all sorts of things! I would not trade this STRICTLY for the higher salary of the MD/DO education.

I do think I may feel like I have shorted myself educationally, however. And I don't think I will be all that comfortable being micro-supervised or feeling like my work/education isn't trusted or feeling like I would understand or be better prepared had I chosen med school (which IS the case! grad nursing/PA and med school ARE NOT THE SAME) . I'm sure I can find a reasonably independent position if I want to but that doesn't feel like a great answer to me.

There is so much drama and attitude towards advance practice nursing, I don't really want to deal with that, either.

I want to point out because I find this very interesting...
I have talked with people I know and this is what they say:

my ARNP PCP who I have a very close relationship with has essentially told me I am fool for not going to med school and she told me she regrets her decision. she is about 45.

The FP/educator and neurosurgeon I worked for told me nursing is where it's at and they really respect nurses and say the opportunities for AP nurses are great and suggest that route is the way to go(and she is an educator at the med school I would hope to attend) These people are in their mid 50s.

my friends in medical school and people I have worked with who are in the later stages of residency (23-33ish) seem to have a horrible attitude towards nurses as A whole and can't believe I am even considering the NP route.

I would like to note these are the same people literally crying that they have to wait to have kids and crying that they don't see DH/KIDS enough, and that they can't do things their friends are doing ( I am CERTAINLY not suggesting this is all med student, just a few of the ones I know).

It just comes down to what is most important and I think my home life/personal time is.
I feel (today anyway, lol) that I would prefer to sacrifice some education for some family time than sacrifice my family for my education.

This gets really hard for me when I consider specialties that are shift work!!!!!!! then it just seems silly to go the NP route. Why not stick it out for more school and residency AND THEN go into an area where you can have a great life/work balance, more pay, more respect, more capabilities, etc. Can anyone else speak about that??


"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing." Albert Einstein

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11 years 5 hours ago #15836 by Doc201X
I just want to add that just because you decide to become a PA or AP nurse doesn't mean that at some point in the future, you can't return to med school too. I say, why on earth would you limit yourself if you don't have to?

Personally I can't tell you how much of a relief it is for me to know that by the time I get around to Residency, my "nest" will be completely empty! And I will have had my cake and ate it too, career wise!

My Scientist/Physician Journey

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10 years 11 months ago #15837 by HAM
I don't know what its like to be in the dilemma - I've never wanted to be a PA personally. However, I will attest that you CAN indeed have a life and go to medical school/residency/practice. Its just relinquishing the mentality from being the alpha-female, beat every other score and graduate at the top. Its very hard for many to do.

I feel very strongly that great work-life balance makes even better physicians. I maintained it throughout medical school (during which I had 2 children) and know I will do so through residency. Its a matter of priority and choices. I spend my free time with my family. I learn what is necessary and choose not to be a gunner. I have a terrific relationship with my children and was here to witness every milestone.

My question for you would be - why go half-way? PAs are not substitute physicians. The training is shorter for a very clear reason.

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10 years 11 months ago #15838 by rianah100
I am an engineer starting med school this Fall. I always worked a lot of hours and not afraid of it. So, it is a natural thing for me to go for Medicine. I mean, I always had to think about the balancing act.

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