How can anyone really decide

Nurses General Nursing


I am currently 35 years old. For the longest time I have been debating nursing vs medical school. It's not easy for me. I love them both quite equally and have shadowed two clinical physicians, a urologist and a NP. Currently I work as a CNA. I calculated how long a BSN vs a BA in Chemistry would take to complete. Both are within one semester of each other as I have prior college credits.

I do expect my wife and I to have a child in the near future and I want to do the best thing for us all. Of course either path is feasible with a child and equally (but very different) as rigorous. In any event, I would be 39 upon either getting a BSN or entering medical school.

After some serious thought, I am leaning toward ENT or Neurology if I decide upon medical school. If I go the RN route I lean toward the US Navy Nurse Corps. I've spoken to several people about that. My main thing is to get on one side of the equation and stop straddlin' the fence. I really gotta decide as I love them equally. Their approach is very different. To me comes down to patient (nursing) vs disease (medical).

Tough decision for you. I can see.

$$$,$$$/time might be your realistic deciding factors.

-Working while in school? Maybe? Some programs do not allow it.

-You will need to have someone to handle family emergencies big and small while you are in school (BSN/MD)

-You will need to be sure your family understands this... really understands this.

-How do you figure to pay off school debt along with your family living expenses? Especially if MD. I suggest you frequent medical blogs if you don't already (Have you heard of Panda Bear?). As everybody here will admonish you, you might not get a job once licensed. It may be quite some time. Many here are now deferring loans, unable to gain employment, or are underemployed due to the economy...

I am a second career nurse... so, I had to make the same decisions. I saved and paid cash for my edu this second time around. No school debt. Nobody knows if things will still be the same when you are ready to practice.

It's a big jump.

I'm going to be harsh, but it's just to make sure that you've thought about this angle ...

What about money? You would graduate with a BSN (and start working) OR start medical school at 39. That's the difference between having a career and a paycheck and being an eternal student. Is your wife wealthy? Are you prepared to go $200K + into debt, have NO life for four years of medical school, and then NO life for 5 + years of residency? Do you know what it's like to work 100 hours a week and still try to maintain a family life?

Are you and your wife prepared to move as needed for medical school and residency? Is she ready to raise your child(ren) without equal support from you? Not that you will be totally absent, but she would absolutely be responsible for a majority of childcare. Medical school is well known for destroying marriages.

If you have a bottomless trust fund ... and a saintly wife ... it would be do-able. I'm just wondering if both of you have really considered the difference in those commitments. It's a hell of a lot bigger than the nursing v. medical models of patient care.

What coast2coast said is great but I would like to add on something.

I read that you want to have children and that is wonderful however you must also ask yourself what would happen if the child was born with physical and mental disabilities. How are you and your wife prepared to handle such a thing if you will be in school most of them time and she would be the primary caregiver?

I bring this up because my cousin's girlfriend wanted to go back to school to become a NP but unfortunately her son was born with severe autism and a heart abnormality and she couldn't go because of the care needed for him.

It's not a pleasant thing for any parent to think of but, it's the old saying "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst"

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management.

I was once in the very same position you were in. I was really struggling with nursing or med school. I finally had a surgeon sit me down and go through the REALITY of being a physician. He really opened my eyes. Let me preface his points by saying that all of them can be argued, however he was known for his unapologetic points of view, and he was a very respected man. Some of the key points that he made were these:

1. Your time is never your own. Your time is spent being married to the pager. If you are an attending at a private hospital, you are married to your partners in that if they cannot cover call, you are covering call along with your regular call. If you an attending at a university hospital, you are married to the institution and the residents under your supervision.

2. Being a physician is 20% patient care and 80% paperwork. He stated that the forms he had to fill out were beyond ridiculous.

3. Insurance companies dictate your care, not you. If you know that XYZ treatment will be the best thing for your patient, it must be approved by a faceless committee at the insurance company who has no business dictating medicine.

4. The hours are ungodly. This is mainly due to reason #1.

5. Your liability is enormous, and the risk of practicing medicine in this day and age makes you frustrated by those who require you to jump through the hoops. Refer to point #3.

6. Get a nice comfortable pillow and bring it with you to work, because your home is the hospital.

I agree with the previous posts regarding hefty school loans to pay back if you decide to go to med school. I don't know what kind of grants/scholarships are available for med school, but I do know that most nursing schools have them in abundance. When I went to nursing school, the hospital that was affiliated with the nursing school offered a "tuition forgiveness" program that entailed a contractual obligation to work for the hospital upon graduation/licensing for 2 years. After the contract is completed, so is your debt. There are also state funded scholarship programs that will grant you money each semester (mine was 1500 per semester) as long as you maintain a 3.0 average. In the nursing school itself, there were MANY small scholarships for every single thing you can imagine-from simply where you live to what your studies are focused on.

I know that you and your wife will be under some stress with you going back to school no matter what you choose, but also know that your future will ALWAYS be better with education behind you.

Specializes in CRNA, Finally retired.

At the age of 35, I chose to get Master's in nursing specialty over med school. Nearing retirement now, I know it was the right decision. I just want to work hard with patients and get a nice paycheck - I'm not interested in running the business of medicine which has become rather onerous for docs that enjoy their patient care time. And I couldn't bear the idea of being a 40 year old intern deeply in debt. And I'm still married!

Specializes in med/surg/tele/neuro/rehab/corrections.

I was thinking along the lines of if you get your BSN there will be no work because nurses are out of work/overabundance of new grads. The military would pay your way thru med school. Need some research on how to set that up.

It sounds like you've already given this great thought and really looked at both options, so while I agree with above posters I wont go into the difficulties of med school. I am currently in nursing school and too am considering med school. My thought is that its easier to go up then down, if you become a nurse and then decide medical school is really the way you want to go that would be much easier than being a doctor and deciding you'd rather be a nurse. Plus since you need a bachelors before attending med school anyway its not like getting your BSN is 'out of the way' or anything. Of course this isnt always true, but I have heard many say that doctors who were previous nurses make great doctors because they have better bedside manner and assessment skills. To me it sounds like you want the patient care aspect AND the medical side so many NP would be a good fit for you? Either way you chose, good luck!

Specializes in MSN, FNP-BC.

I faced a similar deliemma as you. Med school or Nursing school? If I went to med school, at the time I wanted to specialize in CT surgery.

The reason I didn't go that route is becasue I want to have a life. I'm very thankful for the docs we have and they job they do but it's rough and a lot of hours.

Our residents and fellows work 6 12 hour days with every 4th day being a 30 hour day. The practitoners in my unit, including the one PA and our many NNP's, all have to put their time in working day and night shifts.

Our NNP's and PA's still work the typical 12 hour shift that we do as RN's.

To me, being an NP is the best of both worlds.

Specializes in Pediatrics, ER.

What about PA? It's kind of a happy compromise between the two. It doesn't take anywhere near as long as an MD, the foundation is the medical model which med students learn from, you have freedom to move between specialties without another 3-4 year residency, a private practice you are often the MD's only PA and therefore are expected to have a deep knowledge base and handle your own patient load. You can prescribe, perform procedures, and there's a lot of direct patient care and education involved. I applied to PA school for many of these reasons this past summer, and am waiting on invitations to interview this winter. Just some food for thought.

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management.

If you do decide on nursing school, perhaps you can specialize in something that would give you a bit of autonomy regarding the medical/scientific side of things. I think that ICU/PACU would satisfy your scientific mind because it is a mixture of both patient contact and scientific theory (not that any other part of nursing isn't; the entire basis of nursing is in fact, science). Then when you get a couple of years under your belt in an ICU setting, you can move forward to get your CRNA. I also thought of this as an alternative to med school. The CRNAs that I work with start at $130,000. You could still be eligible for scholarships and grants because it is still nursing. I believe you would also have a good chance of finding a job because (correct me if I am wrong, e-colleagues) I don't think the market is AS flooded with CRNAs as new grad RNs. I am just appalled at the number of posts on this forum pertaining to the flooded job market for RNs. Of course, you would still have to find your first job as an I suppose it is a catch 22 of sorts.

It takes another 2 years of very hard work to complete a CRNA program, but you would still be coming out with less debt than med school and not be strapped to a pager. You would only have to round when you do pre-ops, and you do have quite a bit of autonomy. Just something to consider.

Are you a veteran? If so, then you should have additional grants that you are eligible for. My son has only one more year before he is done in the Army (he is currently in Afgh with the Special Forces) and has saved a bundle of cash for school. He will be able to have his pick of colleges when he is out, and has both his saved money and grants that he can use to get through school. I am sure you have already looked into this if you are a veteran. One of my very dear friends (who is now a surgeon) paid for school with grant money from the Navy.

Let us know what you decide. We are pulling for you!

I'm 35 as well and I'd recommend looking up 'med school hell' :) I don't know, many older med school students aren't happy and seem to regret it. You could look at PA programs or the various nursing areas.

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