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

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10 years 9 months ago #15845 by residentmom

So my question is, why would anyone become a doctor if you can become a PA?

I think if you're asking that, you should be a PA. You have to REALLY want to be a doctor to get through the training, so if you have any doubt at all, don't do it.

ResidentMom<br /><br />"If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much." --Jackie O.

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10 years 9 months ago #15846 by Popcorn
You have to ask yourself, as I did, do I want to be the first-assist, or do I want to be the surgeon?

It was very clear cut for me. Now that I'm done with residency and have PAs and NPs working underneath me, I can see why my education and experience were superior.

I don't have kids. That might be part of it, but I do have a very full life, with quite a bit of volunteer work on top of everything else.

But I didn't want to be the first assist. I wanted to be the surgeon, and was willing to do the work to get there.

(Note, I work far more sane hours than most, and love my job. Yeah, the nights and weekends can suck, but it goes with the territory)

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10 years 9 months ago #15847 by HalcyonHilda
Just wanted to pipe in because I'm in the same boat as the OP.

A few years ago I briefly considered PA but decided that I wanted to be in charge, and needed to be a "doctor", and so I went the med school route instead. I started med school last summer and went on leave because I wanted to spend more time with my newborn. I assumed it was just a temporary, new mom thing, but here I am 10 months later and I still feel very strongly about wanting to be home. It's not that I don't want medicine at all anymore, but I want to be home more than anything else. And so it's likely I will not be returning to med school and will instead try to work from home (at my old corporate job) for the next few years. Now this was the same corporate job that I absolutely hated so I know the time will come when I will be frustrated and wanting out and back where I feel I belong - health care. I haven't ruled out reapplying to med school but I will also be giving PA a much closer look than before. I no longer care about being in charge. I think I can be happy as long as I'm allowed to see and treat patients, even if with some supervision.

I too love my free time and also play video games and spend time with the baby. And yes, med school hours were decently flexible, but it wasn't enough free time for me when a lot of my time at home was spent studying or stressing out. The med school portion of it isn't as bad as I originally thought, but residency still scares the daylights out of me.

I tend to agree with the residentmom, that you really have to want it very badly. I do want it, but I don't think I want it badly enough to sustain my motivation for 8 years. In my case, I had doubts the ENTIRE way through postbacc, application, and even once I got in. I wanted so badly to be optimistic, but I am starting to feel that if you have such doubts you should just walk away and find something else. This all being said, I am very afraid of regretting this decision 10 years down the road.

My one friend who is still in school told me that even though she has her bad days her heart is still into it 100%.

Best of luck to you!! I hope your path becomes clear.

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10 years 9 months ago #15848 by snowflake
Thank you so much for all of your posts. I have read every one of them and I really appreciate the breadth of opinions here--one thing that I think is great about this website is that everyone comes from a different perspective. Like Allison, I often feel that I'm going to have some regret whatever I decide!

What I seem to be hearing a lot of people happy with their decision to go to med school is that I would be getting a less than gold-standard education by going to PA school (I don't know about 1/2 way there, though--to me it seems more like 3/4 of the way there). I can't deny this. I realize that as a PA I would be making some sacrifices as far as how skilled I could be as a clinician, and the complexity of cases I could take on.

But the funny thing is, I don't really care about that per se. I don't have to be the best. I want to go into medicine because I want help people, and I want the intellectual stimulation, but not because I need to know everything. I do want to be challenged and have the independence to do what I'm capable of doing, and to learn as much as I want to learn, but to be honest I'd rather spend a night at home with my family than work through the night wondering what to do about a very complex case. So it's not that I "need to be in charge"--in fact, I can think I'd rather go home and leave someone else in charge!

I was realizing the other day that I would not have a second thought about going to PA school if I would be called "Dr." That title still means a lot to me. I've always been a high achiever and at the top of my class--I would be lying if I said it wouldn't bother me not to be called doctor. Maybe this is silly, but I don't want to regret this 10 years down the road. And it would really bother me if I thought people judged my intelligence based on whether I was a PA instead of a Dr. (maybe because being smart has always been a big part of my identity). But then I think of the other achievements in my life (going to the college I did, and my current job), and when I meet someone and they're impressed by this, it actually bothers me a little bit (my gut reaction is, "you really wouldn't be that impressed if you knew what I did--you could do it too!") If anything the ego strokes make me uncomfortable. So then I think maybe I put too much importance on titles, and overestimate the degree to which being called "Dr" would make me feel good.

Any comments on any of that? Thank you everyone for your great posts!!

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10 years 9 months ago #15849 by Melbelle
I worked alongside a PA on a trip I took with a nonprofit organization. At first I thought he was a nurse, but then saw that he could do more than the nurses... but wasn't a doctor... the next time I ran into him was a few years later. He had worked at a local hospital, then spent a couple of years working in South Africa. Sure, he didn't have the prestige the doctors had, but we all respected him based on who he was. It may seem trite, but it was true - we really looked up to him.

This may seem like an unrelated anecdote, but I was impressed by how free he was. His skills were valuable anywhere, but he was not tied down, and he took full advantage of that. He did so many different things, just depending on where he was needed. He worked full time, part time, or not at all.

I'm the kind of person who really does want to know everything there is to know about a particular subject; if I weren't I would go for PA just for the lifestyle possibilities!

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10 years 9 months ago #15850 by zola
snowflake - I had one reaction to your second post - when you said that you'd be getting less than the gold standard education - I think it is important to remember that in PA school you would be getting a completely appropriate (gold standard) education for being a PA - not for being an MD, b/c that is not what you'd be training for. I guess this seems really obvious that now that I wrote it but I think that people often put themselves or other down by comparing apples to oranges.

Regarding your comments on wanted to be called Dr. - I don't really know. I really honestly understand where you are coming from. I can't say whether you'd regret not having that. It seems like maybe that satisfaction wouldn't be enought to sustain you for the long term - it is sort of a fleeting thrill, I think. But a profession can become such a big part of our identity that I can see why you are worried about it.

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