Disclaimer: I’m being completely transparent in this post. The conversation you’re about to read is based on an actual dialogue.
I am dedicating this post to addressing one of the biggest questions a male nurse will ask himself: “Why not be a doctor?” I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve asked myself this very question. But first, I want to share an actual conversation.
It was 5 pm, and I recently finished a case with a doctor. I was curious about his views on medicine and started poking around.
“Hey doc, you said you have a kid, right? Would you recommend medicine to your daughter?” I asked.
“That’s a great question. Probably not. To be honest, I like my job. I think I provide a great service as an Interventional Radiologist. But I still wouldn’t recommend this field.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“In fact, if I could do things over again, I’d just be a nurse. You guys develop personal relationships with patients and have very rewarding roles. And the financial drawbacks of nursing basically don’t exist. You’re in a great field.”
“This is the first time I’ve heard a doctor say he’d be a nurse.“
“The reality is that if you took 100 doctors out to lunch and paid for their filet mignon, maybe two or three of them would recommend the field. The landscape is just too challenging and it’s not worth it. I’m 43 right now and will spend the rest of my life paying off my medical school debt. I work over 50 hours a week, including call. All my income goes to four things: my mortgage, my medical debt, my kids’ college funds, and my investments. Again, I like what I do, but there are other fields that make much more financial sense.”
“What else about the landscape makes you say that?”
“Imagine you’re a mechanic and there’s a third party controlling when you get paid. That means every time you fixed a car, you’d have to fight against this third party just so you could get paid for your service. Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? Who’d be a mechanic then? Well guess what? Today’s doctor is that mechanic. The doctor has to fight against insurance companies and the federal government just to get a fair wage for his services. Doctors work in an unjust environment. In how many other fields do you have to fight to get paid for your service?”
“Wow, I never would have thought of it that way.”
“Walt, if you’re considering medical school, I’d advise against it. The drawbacks are too high, and the financial side of it just makes no sense. The best time to be a doctor was in the 1960s. Our heydey has long been over.”
I left the room speechless. I wondered what it would look like if a nurse said the opposite, advocating medicine over nursing?
I looked to my experience and went to where the pain was. Every time I wiped an anus as a nurse, I’d tell myself I should have been a doc. Every time I listened to a female physician give me orders, I’d hate myself and regret becoming a nurse. Every time I saw doctors walking around in white coats while I trudged along in urine-ridden scrubs, I’d fantasize about becoming a doc. When I went to where the pain was, I was jealous that I didn’t have a white coat. I envied doctors’ power and knowledge.
But little did I know that the guys in the white coat would look at me and think the very same thing about me. That is, I wasn’t aware that many of these doctors would look at me and think: “Look at that male nurse. I bet he makes good money. He goes in to the hospital, does his job, and goes back home with no stress. He gets to fuck his female coworkers. I, on the other hand, am a slave to the hospital. I have a negative net worth. I should have just been a nurse.”
What a conundrum! The doctor envies the nurse for the latter’s financially and emotionally rewarding career. At the same time, the nurse envies the doctor for his prestige and immunity from having to touch patients’ anuses and feces. How would an outsider advise in this situation?
Here is my answer: if you are a young man, then you probably have no idea what you want. You just know that you’re horny and want to make some money. You see two fields that seem tasty: nursing and medicine. My advice is to avoid both fields and to just do whatever you’re passionate about. But if you don’t know your passion, then I’d advise that you become a nurse, work for a few years, and from that point decide if you want to become a doctor. The whole point is to wait until you’re 25 to make the decision. You’re brain doesn’t stop growing until you reach the age of 25. At this age, young men begin to understand the complexities of life when it comes to passion, love, and work. That is, making the decision to become a doctor before the age of 25 is risky because before 25, it’s hard to know the value of time and money. Most importantly, most people pre-25 have no idea what they truly want. Before 25, you just know that you have time and that you want money. There are few exceptions to this rule.
Opponents of my view will claim that going to nursing school and working as a nurse will be a waste that just adds more time to how long it takes to become a doctor. Here’s my response: working is never a waste of time. It is only by working in healthcare, talking with doctors, and maturing in life that a man can understand if the field of medicine is right for him.
My other piece of advice for male nurses is to take a career assessment. These evaluations shed light on your personality and which fields would be the best for you.
If you are willing to follow my advice, I will warn you that once you start making money, you’ll realize two things. First, you will find that it’s tough to make money. Second, you’ll find that there are too many doctors out there that hate their jobs. Concerning the first point, once you start making money as a nurse, you’ll experience first hand the power of Uncle Sam’s big dick (I should know, since I only take home 67% of the income I make…Uncle Sam gets a huge chunk of my income!). You’ll get your check and think “That’s it?? I do back breaking labor and my check only comes to this meager amount?” Once you appreciate how difficult it is to make a decent living as an employee, you’ll think twice before going to medical school. Indeed, MCAT prep classes, the MCAT itself, application costs, and flights alone could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Going through medical school could put you in the hole by $200,000-$500,000. Once you start working as a nurse, you’ll realize that half a million dollars actually means a lot.
Concerning the second point, conversations with honest doctors will open your eyes to the true sacrifices doctors have to make. Once you talk with a handful of doctors, you’ll realize that the field of medicine has many more holes than meet the eye.
Once you start making money and have conversations with doctors, you’ll have a better understanding of what it’s like to make a living while taking care of others professionally. The sacrifices that doctors have to make will become more clear, especially when it comes to the debt they take on just so they can get a job and take care of people.
No 18 year old is truly self-aware enough to know what he wants to do professionally. Only work experience and time can tell if the sacrifice of medicine is for him.