We’re all about your stories here at The Footnotes.
I dropped out of medical school after completing the first two years. Almost from the first day, I felt like a square peg in a round hole, and I quickly became miserable and forgot that medicine is a noble career. I was bogged down in the drudgery of test taking and memorising seeming minutia. My academic performance suffered considerably, as did my self-esteem.
After dropping out, I pursued a career as a researcher in chemistry and polymer science, working in industry. It suited me well, even though it took a good while for the self-esteem to recover.
When I left, I got a wide-range of responses. I literally received everything from “WTF is wrong with you?” to “FUCK YEAH. Best decision you’ve ever made!” I also received a fair amount of indignant reactions to the tune of “Don’t you know how many applicants are rejected?! How dare you take their space!” In the beginning, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what my next move was and I let these comments affect me in negative ways. But honestly, I wouldn’t have known unless I had tried.
It was affecting my health. If you are so stressed out that you have chest pains, can’t sleep, are losing weight, mentally aren’t coping well, get help and/or get out.
I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the years of my young adult life – a good indicator I wasn’t cut out for medicine. Ask yourself what your priorities are – your twenties are good years and there is nothing wrong with enjoying them. If you’re bright enough to get into medicine I am sure you’re not going to just throw your life away on some job that is too far off from that. There are plenty of careers that are rewarding and pay well.
I walked out of medical school in my 3rd year, so in a lot of debt but not a crushingly impossible amount of debt. It is very scary to realise you want to actually, actually quit. I was in $45,000 of debt. I sacrificed a lot to pay it off, but a lot less than I sacrificed every day in med school and it has been absolutely worth it.
I only went to please my parents – and realised that wasn’t a good enough reason to stay.
I just really struggled. There is certainly a lot of unacknowledged struggle within medical school classes, though, I’d say. Most students feel ashamed or even afraid to admit they’re unhappy or struggling academically for fear that it will make them look weak. Again, this is my experience. I would urge anyone facing extreme circumstances to seek help.
I was worried about “throwing away a good career”, “not succeeding”, “taking a huge risk”, “throwing away years of work”…and so on. Then, I kept thinking more logically than emotionally about what I wanted out of life and how to get there. Then…I didn’t worry or care about “how much work I put into it” or “how much I invested” because that is the type of thinking that would have caused me regret.
I left medical school in 2009 on a personal leave of absence. In my particular instance, there was no academic distress and I left in good standing. I had simply felt uninspired by the culture I found myself in and that coupled with the demands of medical training made for a pretty depressing existence.
I had been working part-time through my first year of study and I really enjoyed teaching and thought it might be good to investigate possible alternatives and see if I “missed” medicine. So while the circumstances under which I left weren’t exactly “happy,” they weren’t dire either.
I wanted to do something more creative. Medical school requires intense memorisation skills and long hours and I didn’t like that (going to medical school wasn’t my true passion or calling in life). In medicine I was unhappy, stressed, full of nightmares, and constantly sleep-deprived. I am happy most days now, and I enjoy my career.
I left medicine after 17 years of private practice in Ob/Gyn. I had done two residencies, the other in Family Medicine. I loved my practice for years, but then the fatigue and stress took its toll on me. I got the most pushback from my husband, a paediatrician who was convinced I would “come around.” I enrolled in a masters program in music, and have now added music education (not random — I have an undergrad degree in music). Now I am nearly finished, feeling physically and mentally much better.
Well I haven’t completely quit yet but I am taking a personal leave of absence. I had just started my final year rotations and realised I was extremely unhappy. I dreaded going in each day and had no motivation to do more. During the first years you can get by because you are mainly studying and taking tests. But during rotations you need to be enthusiastic and constantly “on it”. There may be personal issues related to this, but I know a big part was that I didn’t feel that I fit into this environment, and I have other passions I’ve always wanted to explore.
I don’t practice clinically anymore, although I use my medical degree in my work as a writer and as an entrepreneur and consultant. Most people don’t understand my decision, quite frankly. It was a little difficult to make the decision, since after a certain amount of time away, re-entry is impractical. I also had to redefine who I was to a certain extent, if that makes sense. Sometimes that was taxing.
So whether you know you’re on the right path or not, hopefully we can help give you a little positive direction…take our quiz.
Until next time when ‘We Ask’ you something else…