I'm not qualified to answer your question either (MS3, married but no kids yet), but I wanted to add one point to the conversation. When you ask the question, is a medical career worth the sacrifice of training?, it's important to remember that different paths through training require different degrees of sacrifice. This is obvious, I guess, but I think it's worth thinking about.
Here are two example scenarios:
A. You attend a pass-fail institution with in-state tution. Your partner is working and able to cover the family's living expenses, and your educational debt, if any, is low. You aren't gunning for a hyper-competitive residency, so you work only hard enough to remain near the middle of your class, spending your extra time with family and not in a lab. Third year has its tough moments, but overall, your relaxed attitude precludes any overwhelming stress. You easily match into a nearby community program in a less competitive specialty. Residency, especially intern year, is tough, but in 3-4 years, you're done with training. Your low educational debt allows you to pick and choose among jobs. You may even be able to work part time.
See? Not so bad. Now compare that with:
B. You know from the start that you will only be happy as an academic neurosurgeon. You attend the most prestigious school that admits you. The environment is hyper-competitive and your classmates appear to be gunning for AOA before classes even start. Additionally, your school charges sky-high tuition. Your educational debt is in excess of $200K by the time you graduate. You push yourself very hard throughout medical school, working in a lab while maintaining top grades. You are so worried about acheiving a top Step 1 score that you become depressed. Third year is a nightmare. You get to the hospital before your fellow students every morning in order to pre-round on the most patients. You always stay late. Etc. Match day rolls around and -- Congratulations! -- you matched into the neurosurgery program of your dreams. Now you get to spend the next 7+ years working 80+ hour weeks ...
Obviously, I've painted two pretty extreme pictures here, and most of us fall someplace in between. But for me, the sacrifice in A is manifestly "worth it" while there is no reward in this world big enough to make me do B.
The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. -- Isak Dinesen
If you continue with your adventure into medical, please please please specialize. The extra years will be worth it. Primary care is not lucrative and I regret that I did not specialize. Not that money is the measure of worth, but given the YEARS of servitude, it's nice to know that there is some light at the end of the tunnel (bu be warned.. it's not that bright)
Thanks for all of the replies. It's not going to be easy to make the decision. My sons ped offered to let me shadow him and I think I will set up a time to do that. I'm also thinking of volunteering at the hospital and maybe taking a class this summer. I guess the best thing is to take it one step at a time, and in the end, I can at least say I seriously looked into it.
I'm 20+ years out of med school, MomtoRyan and have been in pediatric practice for 17-1/2 of those. I decided to be a doctor at age 5 and always aimed for it. I got accepted to my first choice in med schools. Med school was a horroble blur-endless hours studying and worrying that if I forgot something, someone might die. I was single at that time and marveled at the majority of the class who had spouses or families. At the time, I thought, "Thank God I don't have a family to worry about!" But really, those people were the least neurotic of the students--they were grounded and kept med school in perspective. I think I might have a whole different perspective on life if I was married and/or had kids then (the second goal on my list of things I wanted). I married after my pediatric residency (to an intern who later became a radiologist) and at that time we started trying for a family. Lo and behold, the curse of women who put careers first--infertility--struck! Nine years and many thousands of dollars later, we adopted a wonderful little boy. Although I am a pediatrician and around kids all day, I was stupefied by the depth of my love for this little guy! I worked my butt off--this was a sudden, in your lap kind of adoption, so I took call 14 of the next 31 days as planned and didn't really take time off from my private practice ever since; In retrospect, that is when I should have put the brakes on.
Generally, medicine is currently an unenlightened field when it comes to creative job options. It is still a place where the workers (physicians) glory in their battle scars from all the long hours and sacrifices they made. And if you try to break out and do it a little differently, you are called "not dedicated."
You see, 2 months ago I quit completely. My partners were unwilling to let me work part-time so I left.
My family is much happier and I am so relieved of the burden of trying to be all things to all people. My colleagues are cordial, but not as friendly as they were when we were in the trenches together. I run into my patients often around town and TO A PERSON all the moms sincerely congratulate me and wish me well and thank me for being a good example.
So, would I do it again? Yes, I would, and I will, when the time and job is right for me and my family. I've met some amazing people and inspiring kids and had the privilege of witnessing births as well as deaths. It is still special being a doctor and helping others. I still cannot imagine myself as doing anything else, except maybe teaching. (Doesn't doctor come from the Greek word for teacher?)
Anyway, if it is your dream, follow it; it would be sad at the end of your life if you didn't try and regretted it.
If you could just take away the business aspect of it and really concentrate on the patients, and be adequately compensated with less liability--well, then, wewouldn't have anything to post about, would we?
Thanks for posting such a useful question. I am 32, with 2 kids, 1 and 3 years old and I have applied and been accepted to enter in the fall. (I took the MCAT last April 2 weeks before delivering my daughter....was not actually the oldest person in the room thanks to a 50 year old man who had been inspired by Patch Adams...)
Every day I go back and forth on whether to go or not. I am scared to go and scared not to go. I want to go and I want to forget it. I can't imagine all the work and things there are to learn as I sit here changing diapers and singing wheels on the bus. But I don't want to have my life decided by what I am afraid to try to do. I think a lot about what my kids will think when they are 20 and trying to decide what to do with their lives. Will they see their mom as someone who prioritized career to the point of not being there for the family or as someone balanced and capable who they are proud of? But you can't choose to do it because of what your kids might think of you. So much of how it goes depends on things down the road, how I do in school, if I can get that anesthesiology residency in a community hospital with the 1x/week call and 7am to 3pm hours instead of 5am to 6pm.
What I have heard from people who have done it and their kids swear they are happy and didn't feel neglected is that it is important to have
1) a supportive spouse in a stable job,
2) family nearby or a *great* live in nanny or both,
3) keeping a regular environment and schedule for the kids.
This is probably obvious, but I think it is a good starting point. Also, a lot of people drop out part way through so I have been trying to decide whether I would feel worse trying and quiting or not trying in the first place.
Wow Thanks so much for posting this question and for all the great responses. I am in a similar boat...except I spent my whole life planning for med school getting the BS and then MS. Studying like crazy for the MCAT and then low and behold a twin pregnancy and bedrest so no MCAT for me. It was never a question for me before the babies were born but now I am in major limbo.