Training to be a doctor takes too long- right?

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For those making tough decisions, I wanted to share a mindset altering moment I had years ago

My junior year of college, I was struggling to decide if I wanted to go to medical school or not. My original plan was to be a physician assistant. Two of my biggest mentors were PAs, and I so admired them. I was working through my pre-requisite courses, and I had completed my certified nursing assistant certificate in order to start gaining clinical hours. I was working part-time on the orthopedics floor of my local hospital, and as an as needed/on call position in the emergency department. I had it all planned out, I was working as much as possible to gain the 2000 clinical hours I needed in time for graduation, I would take the GRE after graduation, and apply to PA school. Just two additional years and my whole life and career would be ahead of me! 

However, as I spent more time in the clinical environment, I noticed how limited the scope of practice could be for the PAs. I noticed that most of the fun and interesting procedures were being done by the physicians. While the PAs I worked with were super smart, hard-working, and compassionate, their thought process wasn’t always the same as the physicians. I didn’t really want to spend an additional 8 years in training, but I didn’t want to feel like I missed out on my true calling. I was conflicted.

I went to talk with my best friend about my uncertainty. She worked at a local coffee shop, so I ordered a coffee and sat with her, explaining the pros and cons of each scenario. Before she had the chance to weigh in, one of her co-workers spoke up. What he said was so enlightening!  He mused “One of my best friends from high school is finishing his internal medicine residency this year. We graduated at the same time, and yet he is months away from being a doctor! It is crazy to me that someone my age is a doctor. The time is going to pass either way, at the end of it, what do you want to be doing?”

Well, I went all the way, and now I am in my last year of my residency. The time did pass either way. The friends I have made along the way and the experiences I have had have been absolutely incredible. I love what I do. That’s not to say there weren’t sacrifices. I have been away from my closest friends and family for the last 8 years. I have missed countless weddings, birthdays, parties and celebrations. I have had two children without my “village” of family to help me raise them. My husband has been mostly helpless in where he gets to live, has spent numerous evenings watching me study, and has had to act as a functional single dad while I was away at conferences. But the future couldn’t be brighter.

You can never know what the future will hold, or truly know the best option for you. However, if your focus is on the time, if you are scared to dedicate yourself for such a long time. I encourage you to mull over those words: “The time is going to pass either way.”

Kate Kimes, D.O.

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