Should I Return To A Path I Was On?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about career direction:

This question really doesn’t have to do with the treatment or diagnosis of some physical affliction I may have but rather the prognosis of a mental quandary I have been struggling with as of late. I served five years in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, most of that with the U.S. Marines, although the past two and a half years I have separated myself completely from the medical community by purchasing an automotive repair franchise, I sometimes do not feel as though what I do really matters and imagine myself helping the sick or lame understand and overcome their ailments.

This must sound really prosaic but should I return to the medical community and in what capacity? I think that becoming a Physician’s Assistant would be closest to what I did in the Navy but then what if I become a PA and decide that I would like to become a full-fledged M.D. or D.O. with a specialty? Another thing, I am going to be twenty-eight this January and feel like I am so far behind the power curve, almost to the point of being defeated before I start. What if I decide to get my PA, four years, and then decide I want to be a Neurologist, another what, six years at least? Is this feasible? Perhaps there is someone who will empathize with this foolish young man and send me off to my corner to sulk over opportunities missed.

Signed, Melancholic

Dear Melancholic:

Your questions about entry into the medical profession at the age near 30 can pose major challenges, yet you have some things going for you. Your navy hospital corpsman work should have given you enough on-hands experience to know that you have or have not the physical and emotional capabilities for the medical line of work. Also you have contrasting work in automotives to speak to if you can be happy and moderately successful in a different line of work.

Sooooo now you have to do more than introspect saying to yourself–if only I were younger and if only I had taken the proper courses that would qualify me to launch into years of costly preparation. You must count your commitments to family, should you have married or a significant other and if you have the money necessary to sustain quitting your current job. I assume you should have some education due you because of your military service? Right? Are you located close enough to a community college or a university to begin taking courses necessary for a Physician’s Assistant, nursing, or DO or MD?

Once you determine that you are headed in that direction, there will be time and indicators as to which of these or related choices you can qualify for. I have observed that some nurses work well with family physicians and are knowledgeable enough to diagnose and prescribe. Also do not some community colleges train for a variety of medical jobs such as surgeon’s assistant, practical nursing, X-ray and MRI technician, and nursing? Check out where and when you might enroll. Some programs require entrance exams and have books that will help you prepare for them.

All this can seem like preparing for and then running a marathon or I should say a series of short races and occasionally doing marathons. Is it too late? No. Can it be discouraging? Yes. Can the long education journey be exciting? Yes. Will you weigh these thoughts and do the needed investigation to make an informed decision? I predict you will.

Your e-mail indicates you are not a foolish young man who will sulk and pine of what might be rather than be a can-do fellow. I’ve also forwarded your question to one of our guest respondents, and if he has time to advise, I will forward his thoughts too.Thinking of me and my directions is required of all of us. Thinking we and where I might join with others in meeting the needs of this needy world is what we call WEGO.

Second Opinion: I believe you have a calling to be of service to your fellowman in the healthcare arena. While you were a Hospital Corpsman with the Navy/US Marines, you probably felt very rewarded for the work/service you were performing — and now you “miss it.” Better to find your niche now before you get any older! Based on the limited information provided, I suggest you follow the Physicians Assistant route, first. You will be able to relate to the work very quickly and complete the required training quicker. The cost of liability insurance for physicians today is very, very expensive, as you probably know. As a P.A., you would be working on the sponsorship of a physician, who generally would be expected to further your liability. After a few years as I P.A., you will know whether or not you want to pursue further training. Feel free to ask WEGO for another opinion. Best of luck in your career choice. You have the spirit of WEGO

William Gorden & Gerald Allen, Guest Respondent