How do you know?

Perhaps the most common question I receive on this blog is a simple one: how did you know you should be a doctor? Well, I have written no less than 4 times on that subject, and posted a litany of reasons why to avoid medicine.

But the truth of the matter is that there is no way to know for sure. Is there any way to know for sure about any career decision until you've already made it? What I can tell you is this: all the reasons YOU think you would be a good doctor are bullshit. Total 100% crap. Because I had the same thoughts, and it just wasn't true.

I want to help people. I'm compassionate. I care. I had a grandfather who was really sick. Blah blah blah. This is all trite garbage, and doesn't cut to the heart of the matter.

In high school, I decided that I would consider being a doctor. Instantly, my teachers were enthusiastic. They thought I'd be an excellent doctor, as did a few college professors and a boss or two. What did they know? They didn't see my transcript. They didn't read my admissions essay. They knew nothing about my motivations.

In truth, being a good doctor is not one quality, but a myriad. It is compassion, but it's also conviction, empathy, faith, indignation, professionalism, perseverance, reverence, charity, dedication, hope, intelligence, skepticism, forgiveness, anger, and so much more. It is a whole subset of skills and traits that you don't know you have at the tender age of 18.

I realize now that all those encouraging words from my teachers and superiors, it was because they could see in me things that I could not see in myself. I wanted to become a doctor because I thought it would change me, make me different. They saw that the other than some coursework and a stethoscope, I didn't need to change a thing.

1 comment:

medaholic said...

3rd year medical student here. I remember trying to write down a reason for becoming a doctor when I applied to medical school.

I remember writing down wanting to serve others, wanting to be available duing profound moments in other peoples lives, wanting to be a compassionate person, yada yada yada.

ifindings, you are right that there is no way to know for sure beforehand. And I agree with you totally that becoming a doctor doesn't change you. It doesn't make you suddenly a better human being or smarter. You are pretty much the same person as you were before, but just with a stethoscope and some extra knowledge. Nothing special.