climbthatmountain

PA-S questioning my decision. When/if I should I go MD/DO???

45 posts in this topic

I'm 28 years old and about to end the second semester of my first year and start rotations: I'm really hoping to hear from those who have been practicing for some time and may understand where I'm at. A little more about me: I was initially pre-med, 3.85 GPA (3.7 sGPA) but, after some soul-searching and conversations with my SO, I chose PA due to the urging of my SO and my assumptions about better work-life balance. Now I'm kind of regretting it. 

 

Basically, I'm feeling like the knowledge base we're given in PA school only scratches the surface. I constantly want to know more, feeling like my education and the subsequent care I will provide is inadequate. I feel regretful that I chose to "settle" for PA school, but then I wonder if that's just my ego talking and if I'll be just fine in this field once I recognize my own limitations?! The "ego" was a big battle for me in relinquishing the idea of the "doctor" title. It's worth noting that during school: I have developed chronic back pain sitting in the same chair 9-10 hours per day, I am somewhat tired of studying, and I long for work-life balance! 

 

I know I'm only halfway through school, but this really is tearing me apart. I've already thought of how I'll work as a PA for a couple years, then apply to med school. I don't care about the time or financial commitments (no obligations there). Then, I think of how miserable 4 more years in school sounds and I question my own logic!

 

My question is, if you could do it all over again from your early twenties, what you you choose? PA or MD/DO? 

 

What would you suggest for someone in my situation?

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I constantly want to know more, feeling like my education and the subsequent care I will provide is inadequate

Wait, what?

 

I'm sure you'll get some great responses that will advise you to finish PA school and apply to med school but this... I guess if you feel your education and care you'll provide is inadequate, then I'm sure it will be.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I understand your situation. You need to do what you need to do. I am sure your SO will support you. Don't underestimate the amount you can "learn" as a PA, though. Do a residency? You'll learn tons. Also, nobody learns everything they need to learn in school. Talk to a medical student. They often feel totally unprepared going into residency. That's the nature of healthcare. NOBODY feels prepared out of school. RNs, PAs, MDs, you name it. It's all about learning on the job and getting tons of experience.

 

My 2 cents: stick with it and see how it goes. You might surprise yourself. Also - you got into healthcare. Did you honestly think there was going to be this rosy work life balance? Almost everyone in healthcare works themselves to death. Nature of the beast. 

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I have fourth year med students working with me frequently. They feel the same as you do.

 

Think it through; in a year you'll know what it's like to be a PA.

 

In any event, be what you want to be. Anything else and you'll wonder whose life you're living.

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What would I suggest?  Quit borrowing trouble and go find out if being a PA is really for you after all or you want to move on to something else.  

 

You're about to spend the next year finding out in great detail the answers to almost all your questions.  6 months after that, you'll be working independently as a PA and will know even more.  

 

You will know by the end of that time what your course of action should be.  Focus on what is in front of you.  It will go by quickly.  

 

If you just can't stand it, then start studying for the MCAT in about 6 months.  

 

It was a no-brainer for me; I wouldn't go to medical school if you paid me to. MCAT, Step 1/2/3, 4 more years of "scratching the surface" but with more BS and more stuff, 3-4 years residency hell, maybe a fellowship, crippling debt, then a lifetime of working like a dog for declining pay?  No thanks.  

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I'm 28 years old and about to end the second semester of my first year and start rotations: I'm really hoping to hear from those who have been practicing for some time and may understand where I'm at. A little more about me: I was initially pre-med, 3.85 GPA (3.7 sGPA) but, after some soul-searching and conversations with my SO, I chose PA due to the urging of my SO and my assumptions about better work-life balance. Now I'm kind of regretting it. 

 

Basically, I'm feeling like the knowledge base we're given in PA school only scratches the surface. I constantly want to know more, feeling like my education and the subsequent care I will provide is inadequate. I feel regretful that I chose to "settle" for PA school, but then I wonder if that's just my ego talking and if I'll be just fine in this field once I recognize my own limitations?! The "ego" was a big battle for me in relinquishing the idea of the "doctor" title. It's worth noting that during school: I have developed chronic back pain sitting in the same chair 9-10 hours per day, I am somewhat tired of studying, and I long for work-life balance! 

 

I know I'm only halfway through school, but this really is tearing me apart. I've already thought of how I'll work as a PA for a couple years, then apply to med school. I don't care about the time or financial commitments (no obligations there). Then, I think of how miserable 4 more years in school sounds and I question my own logic!

 

My question is, if you could do it all over again from your early twenties, what you you choose? PA or MD/DO? 

 

What would you suggest for someone in my situation?

your education and subsequent care will be inadequate, that is how the process of learning medicine starts. pa school is only the foundation, lifelong learning will give you the education and care experience needed to be adequate. enjoy this feeling it doesnt last long. ps: if you felt that you knew it all than i would say you have a big problem

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Basically, I'm feeling like the knowledge base we're given in PA school only scratches the surface. I constantly want to know more, feeling like my education and the subsequent care I will provide is inadequate.

PA school is only one part of your medical practice. Once you graduate, it's up to you to cultivate your practice into what you want it to be. Never stop studying or learning. You'll know if and when it's not enough and becoming a doc is right for you.

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I was in a very similar position as you were in the my first year of school. I felt very frustrated by how fast didactic went by and how superficial it felt the knowledge we were being provided was. I spoke with a PA who had experienced the same thing and had made the decision to return to med school. After our conversation she said "You sound just like me, you should go to med school". She did advise that I complete PA school, that no medical school will want to see that I started and then quit halfway through. 

 

I'm now at the tail end of my clinical rotations. I am much more satisfied with my decision to become a PA. I feel on par with the 4th year med students that I rotate with as far as clinical competency is concerned, and I am really happy to be applying to jobs and not to be looking at 4 years of residency. I also study at an institution that is not PA-friendly at all where there are very few PAs employed in the system at all. 

 

I encourage you to complete your PA education. I am a similar age as you and am looking forward to the work life balance, the salary and the life style that is afforded to PA's. I have had 40-50% of med students and doctors say they would not repeat their decision again but once the decision is made there is a necessity to carry it through. There are a lot of benefits to being a PA and the experience you have during clinicals is vastly different to that of didactic. 

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You really think the grass is greener on the MD/DO side of the fence?

 

When you're a student you dont know what you dont know. Some people get into medicine because they love knowledge and and the intellectual aspect of it, but then when the rubber meets the road and they actually have responsibility and no time and have to see patients non-stop-----things arent as fun as they envisioned.

 

You're already halfway through; what are you going to do? Quit and owe $50k and then apply to med school so you can start all over, when you havent even see one patient??

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I agree with BruceBanner, stick it out. If you are not happy as a PA then go back to DO school (LECOM). I could not even imagine doing this myself as there is zero incentive to go back. Your in school for 3 more years then 3 years + of residency working 60-80 hours per week for dirt money. To gain what? Call yourself Dr. Climbthatmountain? You will not make much more over a lifetime going back to medical school after PA school. You will have a title of doctor and more student loans/wasted time/depending on specialty (maybe more autonomy). Again, think of your reason(s) on being a MD/DO? I function 100% the same as my CP with less hours and less time put into school. I am in family medicine, we have our separate panel of patients and the CP doesn't even work in my clinic. He works 30-40 mins away. Enjoy life, family, friends, etc. You are on a great path to help people, but also to have a good life. 

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You really think the grass is greener on the MD/DO side of the fence?

 

When you're a student you dont know what you dont know. Some people get into medicine because they love knowledge and and the intellectual aspect of it, but then when the rubber meets the road and they actually have responsibility and no time and have to see patients non-stop-----things arent as fun as they envisioned.

 

You're already halfway through; what are you going to do? Quit and owe $50k and then apply to med school so you can start all over, when you havent even see one patient??

Spot on!

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At the risk of responding to a possible troll thread, I would say if you are simply interested in working in family medicine, stick with your current path. You are halfway done, and you can get out and start working in about a year. The physicians I work with in family medicine do the exact same thing as I do; while they do get paid more, they also have much larger debt accrued. Not only would you be starting over, you would also have that much more debt to deal with.

 

I would only consider becoming an MD/DO if you want to specialize. Otherwise, there is no real incentive. You can become the clinician you strive to be by constantly learning after you graduate. Medicine has never been a static discipline anyway; you have to keep learning (and sometimes unlearning) things to stay current. School, be it PA or medical school, is just the building block to start your career.

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Yet another reason why I think TRUE previous medical experience is important before PA school!  If you had real HCE, you would be more likely to know what you want in a medical career.  Instead, this person is taking up an educational spot that could go to someone who wants to be a PA.

 

Basically, I'm feeling like the knowledge base we're given in PA school only scratches the surface. I constantly want to know more, feeling like my education and the subsequent care I will provide is inadequate. 

 

No one GIVES you a medical knowledge base, you must earn it.  Read more.  Ask more questions.  Work harder.

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Thank you everyone for your replies. You've reminded me to stay humble and grateful. I think I have been idealizing that which I don't know--I'll have to keep reminding myself to keep things in perspective. 

 

Regarding my previous experience: I worked several years as a scribe in multiple settings, and a couple more years as a CNA. So, far from extensive, but I definitely thought I understood my choice clearly. 

 

I definitely wouldn't drop out of school, and I'm committing to at least a few years of general practice. I'm certainly excited to start applying my knowledge practically and learning with real patients; I just also happen to be going through a "quarter-life crisis" of sorts! If I'm genuinely still feeling this way in 5 years, I will address it then. 

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I was in a very similar position as you were in the my first year of school. I felt very frustrated by how fast didactic went by and how superficial it felt the knowledge we were being provided was. I spoke with a PA who had experienced the same thing and had made the decision to return to med school. After our conversation she said "You sound just like me, you should go to med school". She did advise that I complete PA school, that no medical school will want to see that I started and then quit halfway through. 

 

I'm now at the tail end of my clinical rotations. I am much more satisfied with my decision to become a PA. I feel on par with the 4th year med students that I rotate with as far as clinical competency is concerned, and I am really happy to be applying to jobs and not to be looking at 4 years of residency. I also study at an institution that is not PA-friendly at all where there are very few PAs employed in the system at all. 

 

I encourage you to complete your PA education. I am a similar age as you and am looking forward to the work life balance, the salary and the life style that is afforded to PA's. I have had 40-50% of med students and doctors say they would not repeat their decision again but once the decision is made there is a necessity to carry it through. There are a lot of benefits to being a PA and the experience you have during clinicals is vastly different to that of didactic. 

Very encouraging to hear! I know I'm far from the first to be in this situation, but once you get up in your head about it, man does it feel isolating!

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So flawed in this type of thinking.  Medical school, similar to PA school, is about breadth not depth.  Clinical level training will never delve into the deep recesses of scientific knowledge or develop a mind for scholarly inquiry. 

 

If you have the intellectual reach and curiosity, consider exploring pure academics, not medicine. 

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Basically, I'm feeling like the knowledge base we're given in PA school only scratches the surface.

 

You're right. Compared to med school, it is only scratching the surface. 

 

I know I'm only halfway through school, but this really is tearing me apart. I've already thought of how I'll work as a PA for a couple years, then apply to med school. I don't care about the time or financial commitments (no obligations there). Then, I think of how miserable 4 more years in school sounds and I question my own logic!

 

What would you suggest for someone in my situation?

This is the only logical thing you can do at this point. Finish school, work as a PA and see how you feel at that point. Then, depending on what area you want to practice, your age, financial situation, where you're at in life, you can then reconsider. However, each year will only get harder and harder to go back, the older we get the more responsibilities we have. 

 

There's nothing wrong with feeling apprehensive and anxious, even if you've made the wrong choice. Does it suck...yea. But if you truly want it, you'll go get it. Plenty of people before you, and after you will realize they've made the wrong career choice and head to med school. This goes for people who thought they wanted to spend their career as a RN, auto mechanic, financial advisor, paramedic, EMT, PA, surg tech, you name it. 

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By the way, I hear the same "scratching the surface" things from medical students.  It seems the worst for people who know what they want to do.  

 

I've an acquaintance who cares nothing for anything but oncology.  She complains long and loud about school being 0.5% relevant to what she wants, when she is forced to bang her head into the biochemistry of neurological disease or hundreds of other detailed things, take an exam, and never see it again in her life.  

 

And - to the point - nothing is in enough depth to be really interesting, even if you are that guy studying your 0.5% at that time.  It's all glossed over - there's just more of it.  

 

You should have seen her face when another med student sitting with us pointed out that she will have to do TWO YEARS of other rotations and MAYBE get a couple months of oncology if she is lucky.  

 

Anyway.  Good reference btw.  Might be the best song on an otherwise great record.

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By the way, I hear the same "scratching the surface" things from medical students.  It seems the worst for people who know what they want to do.  

 

I've an acquaintance who cares nothing for anything but oncology.  She complains long and loud about school being 0.5% relevant to what she wants, when she is forced to bang her head into the biochemistry of neurological disease or hundreds of other detailed things, take an exam, and never see it again in her life.

 

And - to the point - nothing is in enough depth to be really interesting, even if you are that guy studying your 0.5% at that time.  It's all glossed over - there's just more of it.  

 

You should have seen her face when another med student sitting with us pointed out that she will have to do TWO YEARS of other rotations and MAYBE get a couple months of oncology if she is lucky.  

 

Anyway.  Good reference btw.  Might be the best song on an otherwise great record.

 

There is an exponential difference between "scratching the surface" for a PA student, and "scratching the surface" for a medical student. 

 

Your acquaintance doesn't seem too bright. I don't know how a medical student cannot know how rotations work? 0.5% is a gross, gross under exaggeration. In fact, "her" statements don't even make sense. Oncology alone incorporates a ton of systems, musculoskeletal, cardio, respiratory, physio, biochem, path, renal, GI ,pharmacology, histology, etc etc. I won't break these comments down anymore though, they just don't make any sense to me. Stay far away from this girl..haha. 

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I sort of thought the same thing, but she's not exaggerating too much on purpose; what I meant by that was the pure oncology...just down to it cancer specific stuff.  Obviously you got to know the physio behind what cancer is doing...

 

They just have so much else to get through.  Guys that want just surgery, or just derm or whatever have essentially the same complaint.  They go into more breadth and depth than us in everything and I remember thinking how much more painful another year of rotations would be.  The area where I went to school is saturated with med (and PA) students and if you wanted an unusual rotation you had to hustle (and pay for) it yourself.  

 

Good thing for her is onco is actually huge demand there...I would imagine no trouble finding rotations or jobs...as several of my classmates found out.  Psych, Onco, Ortho, and of course FP/UC were the big demands.  Everything else was an uphill battle...you had to get seriously lucky...

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I am with you there in thinking that we only scratch the surface. However, as others have stated medicine is about being a lifelong learner. What you learn in the class is not even what you see in real life. I was talking with an ex-girlfriend- who is a fourth year med student and entering residency in July - and I had just completed my second semester of clinical medicine and pathophysiology. I was discussing what I had learned and she said "damn, I really don't think I knew half of that until I was in my rotations." PA school cuts out a lot of the fluff and we learn a lot of the basics and build on that. We as PA's can become knowledgeable in our areas, but will not be the experts in the the subspecialties we work in. I am fine with that. IF you want to be the expert in your subspecialty, then become a doctor. If you are okay with not always knowing then the answer, then PA will great for you. It is all about what you want to be. I am 100% okay will reaching out to my supervising physician with questions. You have to determine if YOU are okay with that. I wish you the best of luck! (Also, you can always keep learning and know as much as a Dr., but if not having that title erks you, then DO/MD might be the route for you)

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Very silly that you haven't even finished your schooling and you're already wanting to jump ship, based on the assumption that PA school won't teach you all that you want to know. You'll have 50K of debt and nothing to show for it, then have to go through the hell of getting into medical school, then complete the four years of school and four years of residency. And you don't even know what being a PA is like. If you feel your knowledge is inadequate then take responsibility for it. Yes - PA school "scratched the surface" but gave us the basic knowledge we need to understand the deeper concepts. 95 percent of what I learned in PA school wasn't handed to me on a platter in the form of a PowerPoint presentation - it was knowledge I accumulated during rotations and doing my own in depth reading.

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At your age, if you are thinking about it now, do it. You'll have nothing but regrets later if you don't and always wonder "what if"

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I was in your boat last year during didactic, and even throughout my clinicals, but I'm a few years older than you. Now I graduate next month and cannot wait to be working and continue learning on the job and I have a lot more faith in the process. This is the hardest it will be, going forward we will only become better, and you are responsible for what kind of PA you will be. I spend a lot of time reading and studying on my own, partly because I have an exam to pass, but honestly it is mostly because I love medicine and always want to learn more. If you love it, it's enjoyable to be a nerd and will make you a better PA ;)

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To all those suggesting I learn more on my own, I agree wholeheartedly and already engage in self-study constantly. I'd be quite naive to assume I'll get it all in a short 25 months of death by PowerPoint. What I'm realizing is that I don't believe it's possible nor practical for me as a PA to assume I'll ever be able to self-study my way up to the knowledge level of a typical residency-trained physician. No need to put them on a pedestal, and that doesn't put down the value of our profession either, just highlights the obvious fact that their training is more in-depth. I'd sure hope so for the extra years and $$$. I initially thought I was 100% OK (even preferred) the more "pragmatic" PA route, but now I've been having second thoughts.

 

Like I said earlier though, I'm realizing I have to keep taking a step back and just being right where I am. In a few years I'll probably have a much more grounded and (hopefully) wiser view!

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