4 Things That Will Leave No Doubts About Your Decision to Be a Doctor

What do you do when you start to wonder if you really know what you are getting yourself into by signing up to be a doctor? I don’t mean when you’re experience serious, soul-searching doubt that requires considerable thought to make sure you are on the right path, I mean those little, sneaky fears that overcome you every once in a while when you’re tired or you just got rejected by yet another school.

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I’ve been struggling with these feelings lately as I sit and wait to hear back from the first school I interviewed at. Being in a state of limbo can be really stressful and the waiting game is no fun to play. With that in mind, I thought I would share a few things that always help me feel better when I’m facing uncertainty.

1. Volunteer: Helping others, no matter what the cause, is always great because it gets your mind off of yourself for a moment with the added benefit of knowing you’re actively making a difference in someone’s life. Volunteering makes you more compassionate and empathetic and often helps you feel more grateful for your own health and well-being. If you’re working at a hospital with residents & attendings it’s often an accurate glimpse into what your future may look like and will fill you with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for your chosen profession, leaving no room for nervous anticipation. There are lots of resources online to help you find a cause that you feel strongly about, a quick Google search will give you lots of options, the first being http://www.volunteermatch.org/.

2. Talk To A Physician: I work closely with an internal med doc on a research project at Northwestern currently and last week we had a great discussion that stemmed from one of our studies which involves breast cancer screening. It was so refreshing to talk to someone who is so knowledgeable and was so willing to teach me, it made me really look forward to learning more in depth about all of the things we discussed and that she so patiently explained to me. Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone else encourage you who has already been through it all already, so if you have a trusted family doctor or a physician at your work that you would feel comfortable talking to about medicine, I say go for it!

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3. Talk To Patients: I participated in my first focus group as a researcher last Wednesday and while it was amazing overall, the one thing that really stuck out to me was when one of the patients who we were getting feedback from talked about her relationship with her doctor and how much she appreciated this woman and everything she did for her. I sat there listening to her thinking, I want to be that kind of doctor someday, that could be ME! It was exactly the kind of reminder that I needed to assure me that this is something that I really want and there’s no reason to feel distress. I know sometimes it can be difficult to find opportunities to interact directly with patients but I’ve found that doctors are surprisingly accommodating if you explain to them your interest in getting clinical experience. If you don’t know any physicians that you could ask about shadowing, consider looking up doctors who work at your local hospital and then emailing them to ask what their policy is on letting you observe them for the day. I have a good friend who tried this technique with amazing results (he got to observe a surgery!).

4. Exercise: This is a big one for me. I don’t think about it much but when I don’t exercise I’m definitely grumpier, more tired, and overall in worse spirits than when I am exercising. I personally find yoga to be extremely positive and affirming in terms of achieving life goals in general – classes are often set around an intention that you make for yourself and you are encouraged to embrace a sense of calm which is exactly what you need when your day is filled with stress. If yoga isn’t for you though there are so many other ways to be active. Some people prefer outdoor activities like hiking, biking or walking or you can sign up for a gym in your area (just remember to actually go!).

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All of these activities will help you on your journey to med school but it’s important to remember along the way that it’s normal to feel a little worry now and then. If you’re feeling those pangs of fear, just know that you’re not alone and then do something on the list to get you back to feeling in control and excited for what your future will bring.


Featured image from Flickr | MiniGwen

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Chantal Mendes

Chantal Mendes is a writer who loves science. She graduated with a journalism degree from Boston University (go Terriers!) and is currently a third year at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. In addition to her interests in cardiology and pediatrics, Chantal enjoys rock-climbing, anything Lord of the Rings related and looking for the best poutine in Vermont. She shares stories of her journey from journalist to prospective doctor on her blog, journalistdoingscience.blogspot.com and tweets @Chantal_Mendes.