Is a Medical Career Right for You?
Medicine places considerable demands on its practitioners. Intellectual requirements include an aptitude for science and an ability to understand, accurately remember, analyze, interpret and evaluate information in order to determine a diagnosis, monitor progress, and plan a course of treatment. Medicine generally involves complex interactions with patients through active listening, explaining, answering questions, and providing emotional support; therefore, good "bedside manner" or strong interpersonal skills are valuable; and emotional stability and compassion are important in physicians' effective work with sick or dying people. Further, physicians generally need manual dexterity in the use of a range of medical instruments, and physical stamina, as they often work under pressure for long and irregular hours providing physical care. Commitment to the medical profession, on-going study to keep knowledge current, dedication to patients' welfare, and upholding professional ethics are also central to effectiveness in the field. As you consider a career in medicine, you should ask yourself about your motivation and ability to develop the wide-ranging skills and characteristics valuable to an effective physician.
In order to develop the skills outlined above, you will need to have strong underlying motivation to support you in medical school and throughout your medical practice. Ask yourself the following questions, posed by the Association of American Medical Colleges:
- Are you interested in science and how the body works? Do you have an inquisitive mind?
- Do you want challenges, opportunities, a chance to make a difference?
- Do you care deeply about other people, their problems, and their pain?
- Do you enjoy helping people with your skills and knowledge?
- Do you enjoy learning, gaining new understanding? Do you often dig deeper into a subject than your teacher requires? Do you understand the value of learning beyond just making good grades?
- Are you interested in how the human body functions? Are you intrigued by the ways medicine can be used to improve life?
Medical school admissions committees focus on your academic credentials (cumulative and science grade point averages, and MCAT scores), which support your having the aptitude for the science medicine requires. They also place strong emphasis on your having had patient contact in a clinical setting, which you should describe in your admissions essay and interview, in order to evaluate your motivation to enter this profession.
Medicine is a highly rewarding field that comes with a significant investment of time, skill, emotion and money. Therefore, you should ask yourself a critical question often; you'll be asked it in your admission interview, and will probably ask it of yourself during challenging times in your future. Listen for your response; you should have an honest and convincing answer:
"Why do I want to be a doctor?"