A Better Life Than Mine: How to Support Your Kid’s Choice to Be a Doctor

As fathers, we all have a common goal – give our kids a better life than we had. Whether that means making more money, spending more time with family, seeing more of the world, or all of the above, we strive to ensure they can have the best life possible. Often, we push them towards a certain career field that we know they’d be great in and would allow them to live the life we never had.

Few career fields are going to ensure that your child’s future is secure as healthcare. In particular, becoming a licensed medical doctor is a near-sure path to success. If your child has shown an interest in becoming a doctor, and you want to do everything you can to support that decision, read ahead to learn how you can help.

Set Their Expectations Early

You don’t ever want to tell your child that they will fail in whatever they’re doing. On the other hand, you don’t want to promise them that they’ll succeed just because they’re your kid. Instead, you need to be realistic about what life will be like as a doctor, what it takes to become one, and what their odds of success will be.

The Biggest Initial Hurdle Will Be Getting Into Medical School

By far, the hardest thing your child will have to do, initially, is get accepted into medical school. Despite a growing demand for doctors, U.S. News & World Report revealed that the acceptance rate is only around 4% for the top medical colleges. To join that 4%, there are some challenges your child will have to overcome:

  • Applications to medical schools have increased by around 25% in the past decade. That means more competition for your child.
  • Over 54% of all applicants are rejected by all medical schools they apply to.
  • The average undergraduate GPA for those accepted was 3.61.
  • The average MCAT score for those accepted was 31.1.

As you can see, your child is going to have to excel academically to even have a chance of being accepted. Even students who have above average grades may apply three, even four times before being accepted. If your kid truly wants to be a doctor, they’re going to have to do well in school, even if that means sacrificing their social life and hobbies.

Make Sure They Take Care of Themselves

Even if your child is accepted to medical school, their life will be anything but easy. Between classwork, lab work, rotations in the clinics, and studying for tests, your kid is going to be under a lot of stress. The good news is that the American Association of Medical Colleges reports an 81% graduation rate for all medical students. The bad news is that it’s a long road to get there.

In additions to about 40 hours per week of classwork, med students typically study anywhere from 30 to 40 more hours each week. Weekends can sometimes bring relief, but if a test is coming up, that’s an additional 12 to 24 hours of studying over the weekend. Once they hit clinics, your child will be dealing with real patients with real medical issues. It can be a very trying time.

During medical school, it’s very common that students don’t get enough sleep, don’t exercise, and don’t eat enough. As a father, you need to make every effort to check on your child, make sure they’re taking care of themselves, and bring them food if they need it.

That Goes for Residency Too

Once your kid graduates and gets their medical degree, there’s one final hurdle they have to pass. Before they become a “real doctor,” they have to complete a residency in a practice or hospital. Think of it as an internship for doctors. While residents tend to have more time to themselves than med students, the stress is still very high. Additionally, their risk of injury and illness increases.

Since they’re now constantly around patients with diseases and injuries, your child now has an increased risk of being incapacitated. Residencies don’t typically pay a large stipend, so your child can’t afford to miss much work. It’s important that they understand the risks involved and take care of themselves if they become sick or injured during their residency.

Help Them Explore Different Specialties

Within the realm of human medicine, there are different specialties that doctors can focus on. Each one carries some pros and cons. Depending on your kid’s personality type and where their interests lie, you can help them choose the specialty that’s right for them. Here is a small selection of the specialties your kid could pursue.

Dermatology

This specialty focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and study of diseases of the skin. Typically, dermatologists are fairly well-rounded people, with a balanced interest in both working medicine (i.e. getting their hands dirty) and doing research. If your child is comfortable with people, enjoys hands-on activities, and also loves to read, dermatology could be a great option.

Emergency Medicine

As the name implies, emergency medicine is all about caring for people in an emergency situation. The goal is to save lives and prevent further injury. Emergency doctors treat gunshots, drug overdoses, heart attacks, strokes, and other life-threatening ailments. This is by far one of the most stressful, intense fields in medicine. Your child should only consider emergency medicine if they’re comfortable making quick decisions under pressure, have a strong will, and a passion for helping people.

Pathology

Pathology is the study of the causes and characteristics of diseases. Less patient care and more a research field, pathologists are concerned with discovering where diseases come from and how they work. By and large, most pathologists are introverts who enjoy being able to work in a quiet setting while focusing on data. If your kid tends to be shy, enjoys spending time alone, and loves solving puzzles, pathology could be a great career choice.

Arrange for them to Speak with Working Doctors

Admittedly, unless you’re a physician yourself, your knowledge of the medical field is going to be limited. Your child needs to speak with someone who’s lived the life before they commit to a career in medicine. The next time you go in for an appointment, bring your child and let them speak with your family physician. You can also reach out to the nearest hospital and see if a physician is willing to spend some time talking to your kid.

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