This browser doesn't support Spotify Web Player. Switch browsers or download Spotify for your desktop.

226: Why You Should Still Consider a Career in Medicine

By Ryan Gray, MD of Meded Media

Session 226 The journey to medical school is long, tough, defeating, and can be isolating. There are plenty of news stories of physicians out there about job dissatisfaction, suicide rates, and suicides of medical students. Inevitably, there comes a lot of doubt when you're on this journey and you’re probably still thinking if this is what you should be really doing because you love every aspect of it but people are saying not to do it. Our guest for this episode is Dr. Shikha Jain, who was also previously on the Specialty Stories Podcast Session 08 where she talked about her profession as a hematology oncology physician. She recently wrote a great article on KevinMD, called Why I Would Still Encourage My Daughter to Go Into Medicine, so I invited her today to share with us why you should still consider a career in medicine despite all this negativity surrounding it and how our healthcare system is constantly in turmoil with every new administration that comes in. If you're having doubts right now or your parents are concerned about you doing this, listen to this episode and hopefully, we will answer questions for you. [03:15] Being Drawn to the Field of Medicine Dr. Jain started thinking about becoming a doctor at a very young age being exposed to her father who is a surgeon so she really enjoyed seeing patient experience. As she got older, she began volunteering in clinics and began to see the impact physicians have on people. While in college, she was working up other opportunities and seriously considering other fields. In fact, she got a feedback from the P.I. at the research lab where she was working that she lit up more when she was doing other things such as when she started a volunteer organization. So she did consider it for a while. However, Shikha still found herself drawn back to medicine. What really cemented her desire to do clinical medicine is patient interaction, being able to see them, talk to them, and explain things to them in a way they understand and help them take control of their own health and life which is very unique to medicine. It incorporates patient education, science, interpersonal communication and having that bond with somebody which you don't get in a lot of other fields. [06:36] Premed Struggles As with any other premed student, Dr. Jain's premed journey was just as tough. She said that regardless of where you come from, the premed tough is hard. No matter what your background is, there's going to be something that's going to be a hurdle. You may not be a good test taker or not understand the science behind it or not enjoy some of the fields. She admits she's a bad test taker and multiple choice tests were difficult for her. In short, she struggled through her premed years just trying to get by just like any other premed does although having a physician father helped her in terms of knowing what to expect going to to residency. So it helped her to not become overwhelmed during that transition. [08:30] How to Overcome Being a Bad Test Taker Test taking was something she struggled with for a long time. For one, Dr. Jain went to the University of Chicago for college and majority of their tests were in essay form. So one of her mentors in medical school set her up with a resident who was an excellent test taker and an expert in figuring out the tricks in answering multiple choice tests. He sat down with her and showed her how he broke down multiple choice tests; for instance, just looking at the question first and then figuring out the answer on your own before looking at the multiple choice answers. As a result, she came up with her own techniques and learned how to become a better test taker which has help her throughout her career. Her biggest issue was second-guessing herself, answering all the questions, going back to check them, and ending up changing her answers. To resolve this, she would go back not to check her answers but just to make sure she answered everything. Her turning point was when she realized that your first run-through when you read it properly the first time is usually when you get the actual gist of the question and you're not second-guessing yourself. [11:25] The Hardest Part of Being a Premed Students can feel there is not as much support and mentorship while there's a lot of competition. Some competition is good but sometimes the competition that exists can become frustrating for students that they feel like giving up because they feel the competition more than the support they get. During college, Dr. Jain surrounded herself with more collaborative people and they have helped together through the years and even until now. Collaboration, not competition. Competition is not just frustrating but isolating as well. So it's very important to find those collaborative classmates and friends to work with them so you can all get through these premed years, medical years, and even through residency. [14:35] The Hardest Part of Medical School and Knowing Your Why Medical school is a whole new ball game where you walk in and you think you know a lot of things having gone through all these tough premed classes and you practically survived everything. But medical school is like starting from scratch. Sure, there are a lot of stuff from premed that will be helpful but there are more other stuff in medical school which you've never had any experience with. It's like starting from the ground up and this can be overwhelming and almost scary to some students. Again, the most important thing is finding your mentors and people you can work with to make things go much smoother. Dr. Jain definitely questioned herself at some points through her journey. There were definitely times of self-doubt and days when she and her husband (also a physician) questioned what they were doing. To overcome this, she focused on reminding herself why she was doing it and what she was getting out of it in the end. Having a father who is a surgeon, she saw the benefits of what he had and what he was able to accomplish so she used this as her "light at the end of the tunnel." So she treated medical school as the means to an end. She was learning all this stuff because she knew she was going to apply all of it for the rest of her life, sort of delayed gratification. Medscape released a study regarding physician burnout and Dr. Jain said that this could be triggered by the fact that physicians have lost autonomy leading to loss of control over their medical practice which can be very frustrating. Way back, physicians could decide what patients they wanted to see or how long clinic hours would be or how many days they wanted to be on call or they wanted to round, pretty much the way they wanted to orchestrate their lives. Today, a lot of practices are becoming hospital-owned and practices are now becoming larger groups ran by non-doctor administrators. Many physicians feel administrators are only looking at the bottom line and the business side of things as opposed to physicians thinking about what's best for their patients. As a result, the goals of medical practice are not aligned with the goals of the administration so they feel restricted in what they can or cannot do. [24:40] Healthcare Administration and Education on Health Care Policy Not to mention, older physicians now have to keep up with the new technology, computerized systems, and paperwork. One element is their resistance to change, another is they don't feel they have the time to get involved with administration or help make changes necessary for patient care or for the practice. Dr. Jain thinks this is a communication gap because no one feels they have enough time to do everything that needs to be done. Dr. Jain believes 100% that this could be mitigated by educating medical students on the administrative side of things, specifically having one class a year for students to learn how the administration works. When she was a medical student, Dr. Jain organized an elective on health policy to try to get medical students engaged in politics and understand policy changes.  Healthcare administration and healthcare policy are two very important topics not covered in medical school. Dr. Jain thinks physicians can only say they're only going to take care of patients and not worry about anything else. However, many times, the decisions being made may not be good for the patients and the administration doesn't understand that due to zero medical background. Physicians are then in a unique position as being advocates for patients while being involved to a certain extent in administration. The key is to keep your eyes open and pay attention to what's going on around you. Getting a mentor is another key to help you figure out how you can best keep yourself abreast of what's going on so you're educated and you're able to advocate for your patients. Dr. Jain is currently in a group that meets with their administrators every other week to talk about the changes and their impact on patient care. So they're able to come to a solution that would both increase the efficiency of the clinic and improve patient care. [31:15] Why You Still Need to Go to Medicine Dr. Jain would still encourage her daughter to get into medicine if she wants it and has the passion to do it because it is an amazing field. The unique thing in medicine is if you have a passion for this field, the rewards can be amazing, regardless of whatever field you’re in. You get to change people's lives in any part of medicine and that is a very unique thing. And if you really love what you do then it wouldn't feel like a job and all the other stuff just becomes a background noise. Five to ten years from now, Dr. Jain still believes she would have the same enthusiasm as she has now. She firmly believes going into medicine is a calling and the people who truly continue to enjoy are people who went into it because this is what they wanted to do. And if, for instance, you might not like one part of it, it could still open some doors for you to do so many other things. If you're getting frustrated with something then you have the flexibility as a physician to change your trajectory. She maintains her enthusiasm by always keeping the patient care aspect in the forefront of her mind. At the end of the day, it's about affecting people's lives one way or another and you have that privilege to do that everyday. And that's what she reminds herself of during frustrating times. [37:07]  Dealing with New Administration and Policy Changes It's important to understand what's going on and have a voice. At the end of the day, patient care is the definition of being a physician. Everything else will change around you but what happens behind that closed door is paramount. If you're interested in getting involved and learn the administrative side of things, Dr. Jain recommends looking up AMSA which also gives mentorship and guidance. Talk to somebody in your college and see if there's someone you can touch base with and pick their brain. Dr. Jain says mentorship is something that is underutilized a lot of times in medicine. It's such a gift when you have a good mentor and a lot of times you have to seek them out but when you find a good mentor it can change your life. [41:14] Final Thoughts You don't have to know everything about the administrative stuff but absorb as much as you can and just keep yourself up to date.  Getting yourself educated to the best of your ability is your best tool. Don't worry about learning everything. Just worry about learning as much as you can and enjoy yourself as you go through it.  Dr. Jain thinks it's all worth it in the end. Do this for the right reasons and hopefully you will come through on the other side happier, healthier, and more willing to continue to give back to your patients, to your colleagues, and to the profession. Links: The MCAT Podcast The OldPreMed Podcast Specialty Stories Podcast Specialty Stories Podcast Session 08 with Dr. Shikha Jain Dr. Jain's article on KevinMD - Why I Would Still Encourage My Daughter to Go Into Medicine AMSA

Listen to 226: Why You Should Still Consider a Career in Medicine now.

Listen to 226: Why You Should Still Consider a Career in Medicine in full in the Spotify app