Over the past three years I've done extensive research about the pathway of becoming a doctor. I've always known since I was little that I wanted to be in the medical field (except when I was 9; I was determined to move to Australia and become a suba diver so I can swim with sharks). Over the course of a few years I've been looking into different careers within medicine. For a while it was a trauma surgeon, after that I switched to Emergency Physican, and now I've been very intrested in Pediatrics with a subspecialty of Emergency Medicine. That's like an Emergency Physician who's been trained to treat children and infants. Why? Because sick babies don't mean to be sick. Unlike adults who know that some of the things they're doing are harming their health (smoking, drinking, drug usage) children just want to feel better. So here's what I know about the road to becoming a doctor.
***Disclaimer: This is through personal research, don't take my advice as the bible.
I can't speak for anything much after high school because I'm still in high school...
During college you'll be taking your college degree requirment classes as well as the prerequisite medical school classes. Most students take 4 courses per semester.
College will give you a feel of what the rest of your educational-life will be like. If you hate those 3 hour science labs, if you can't keep up with classwork, then maybe medicine isn't for you?
College is a really good time to start doing internships relating to medicine, start looking around for job shadow oppurtunites for the specialties that intrest you, not what you think medical schools would like to see. Because they don't care. Anyone can get a shadowing oppurtunity. You want to impress medical school admissioners? Go cure cancer or something. Literally. You have to do something that takes more than just filling out a piece of paper.
During college you will have to take the MCAT which is similar to the SAT's but much, much more difficult.
Congrats! You're 99% done. Almost a doctor, just stick with it.
The first two years of medical school is all classroom. You basically learn a new language. You take classes to continue from your college classes such as anatomy, biochemistry, or microbiology. You'll also be taking classes that will help you study the human body. Classes like embryology and neuroscience. The way you learn these classes are different from college to college. Some will stick to a traditional academic calander of multiple classes at once while others may choose to focus on one subject at a time, around 4 weeks per subject, then move onto the next subject.
After the first two years of medical school, before you move on to clinicals and rotations, you'll have to take Step 1 of the USMLE. USMLE stands for United States Medical Licensing Examination. Step 1 of the USMLE, measures your ability to understand and apply basic science concepts to medicine. Once you've passed Step 1, you can now begin doing roations in hospitals or clinics.
The last two years of medical school is the fun/stressful part. You will have to take what you learned in the classroom and apply to real patients. You will still be taking some classes but most of your time will be spent doing rotations which are led and taught by residents. Rotations help expose medical students to the wide ranges of different career paths in medicine. The length of rotations can vary, as well as the difficulty. You may even need to relocate for rotations if the hospital is not near you. Typically, year 3 roations are the fundemntal specialties that student need to learn while year 4 are chosen by the student based on their intrest.
Between your 3rd and 4th year of medical school you will have to apply for a residency program. Like applying for college, you will have to write an essay explaining why the specialty is a good match for your personality, lifestyle, and goals as a physician. During the last two years of medical school, you will also have to take Step 2 of the USMLE. This evaluates your medical knowlege aa well as your diagnostic and clinical skills. Your exam scores on both Step 1 and Step 2 will play a large role in the residency you get placed on since medical schools often use the scores to rank their residency applicants. You'll be doing interviews during your fourth year and matches are announced on March of your fourth year.
You're a doctor now! Kind of... A resident is a physican that is under direct or indirect supervison of an attending. An attending is what you become after residency once you've passed all the tests.
Residency length depends on the specialty, click here to see the general amount of years for each specialty.
The first year of your residency is called your "internship year". This is the hardest year, you'll be working around 80 hour weeks.
Sometime during your residency you will have to take Step 3 of the USMLE. You can not take it past 7 years of the time you took Step 1. Once you've passed Step 3, you are now offically a licensed practicing physican.
If you were trained as a pediatric resident, you can only be a pedatrican. If you were trained as a general family physican, you can only be a general family physican. If you want to subspecialize in a different area to treat specific patients or illnesses then you will have to apply for a fellowship. Fellowships can include Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Surgery, Epilepsy, Oncology, etc. And can range from a vary amount of years. Competiton for fellowships can be stiff. Especially for popular ones like surgery. Getting accepted will be based of academic success, personal letters, and an interview.
Physicans who go complete a fellowship are payed more than physicians who have not.
Becoming a physician is a long and brutal journey. There'll be days, maybe even months, where you regret choosing this career. But at the end of the day if you have passion, if you have that flame in your heart for medicine, then you will succeed. Don't get discouraged if you have a few set backs, don't give up on your plan because it didn't go the way you wanted it to.
One of the best advice I ever got about my future is to give myself wiggle room. I'm that type of person to plan out year by year, what I need to have done by then. "Okay I graduate this year.. then I go off to medical school and graduate this year.. then I'll do this and that" but having that mindset is dangerous. Yes, you can say "I want to finish college and then go off to medical school" but to give yourself a time limit is just a disaster waiting to happen. If you don't finish college in time, don't get discourage. At least you will finish it. Give yourself wiggle room.
Greatness lives on the edge of destruction. The reason that someone is great is because they survived death. That's what made you great, you were almost over. The Phoenix rises from it's ashes. You are here and people look to you because in the face of destruction, you pounded on your chest and put your hands up and said I'm still here. I'm still standing. Bring it."
RIANNE DEL CARMEN
My biggest goal in life is to just live it. To enjoy every moment and find the beauty in all things. So I write to inspire others. Not to just enjoy life but to better themselves. To become a better student, a happier person, and a more loving human. With tips and stories, I hope to help you through all the rough edges.