Today, as always on the OldPreMeds Podcast, we’re answering a question pulled directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum.
The poster is a nurse asking about the transition to medical school, and how being a nurse will affect their application to medical school.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:35] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
“I’m 27 and have been a nurse for about five years now, currently working in a busy urban ER. I fell into nursing somewhat serendipitously and got lucky that I enjoyed it. My path in nursing was itself atypical, but that’s another story.
I very much enjoy my job, but since the second semester of nursing school, I knew that I was eventually going to want to be in a provider role. Prior to nursing school, I had never really been exposed to health science, and I quickly fell in love with anatomy, physiology, and patho as I was introduced to them.
The obvious progression for me at this point would be going to NP school, and while I’ve tried to convince myself that I’d be just as content with that, I know deep down that I wouldn’t feel fulfilled.I very much enjoy my job, but since the second semester of nursing school, I knew that I was eventually going to want to be in a provider role.Click To Tweet
In fact, at first, I was quite distraught with this conclusion. It was something of a diagnosis by exclusion because I desperately searched for something in the mid-level realm that I believed would be as satisfying. Unfortunately, it was something of a “square peg in a round hole” situation.
I’ve come to accept with much support and coaching from my family that my path is that of an old premed. I’m currently working on my prereqs with as much gusto as one can summon for something like organic chemistry, and I’m hoping to get in some research next year.
- How will admissions committees look upon my transition from nursing to premed?
- Have any other nurses out there done this, and how did their nursing peers respond?
- How vital is shadowing if I log thousands of hours of patient care each year?
[04:35] Nurses Going to Medical School
It is not unheard of for nurses to go back to medical school to become physicians. This actually happens to a lot of nurses: They get to a certain level, and then they realize they need more and want more.
A lot of times, the motivation comes from an internal drive for more knowledge, more expertise. When you get ready to talk about that motivation in your personal statements and your medical school interviews, you need to externalize that motivation. You need to focus on how that additional knowledge and expertise will help you serve patients at a higher level. You want more knowledge so that instead of taking care of this patient as a nurse, you may now get to take care of her as a physician.This actually happens to a lot of nurses: They get to a certain level, and then they realize they need more and want more.Click To Tweet
[05:45] Mid-Level or Physician?
It is great that you’ve acknowledged that being a nurse or an NP wasn’t going to be enough for you. For many nurses, mid-level is a perfect step, and they’re perfectly content there. For some, they need to go on and get their medical degree. This nurse has figured it out for himself that he wants to be a physician.For many nurses, mid-level is a perfect step up. For other, they need to go on and get their medical degree.Click To Tweet
[06:38] Other Nurses Turned Doctors, and What Your Nurse Peers Will Think
Check out The Premed Years podcast Session 234, an interview I did with Sarah. She is a former cardiothoracic ICU nurse turned medical student. She is in medical school now, and she wants to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. In that interview, we specifically discussed what her nurse peers thought of her going to medical school. She got a lot of pushback from them, but it was obviously not enough to dissuade her.
Several weeks before that interview, I also did an interview with Renee back in Session 229. She was a nurse, then an NP, then a PhD nurse educator. Her story is a little bit different in that she always wanted to be a doctor but grew up in a rural part of the country where gender roles told her she couldn’t be one. She is 54 years old now and in medical school realizing her dream. I am also working with one student right now who is a nurse and wants to go to medical school.
[08:35] What Do Medical Schools Think of Nurses Applying?
You will be looked at just like anybody else. Just like they would with any other nontrad career changer, they’re going to ask you why you’re changing your career and why you want to be a doctor.
What you don’t want to do is talk all about negative stuff such as why nursing is not enough or how you can’t stand when physicians boss you around and look down at you. Instead, talk about why medicine is drawing you away from nursing, and talk about those positive things about medicine and being a physician. Talk about what you will be able to offer to your patients in the future.
Moreover, it’s awesome that you have so much experience in a healthcare setting. Being part of a health care team is definitely a favorable experience to have on your medical school application.
[10:00] Shadowing versus Clinical Experience
Shadowing and clinical experience are two completely separate things. Even as a nurse who interacts with physicians most of the day, shadowing allows you to take off your nurse hat and pretend to be a physician for the day. You can be that physician’s shadow without worrying about your nursing duties.Even as a nurse who interacts with physicians most of the day, shadowing allows you to take off your nurse hat and pretend to be a physician for the day.Click To Tweet
You need those shadowing hours to solidify in your mind that difference between a nurse and a physician. Yes, both are in the same team, but different roles.
It’s just like a pitcher and catcher who are interacting all day long. That pitcher still has to put on the catcher’s gear to realize what it’s like to catch a 95 mph fastball. Therefore, you definitely need shadowing hours. You don’t need a ton. Have at least 40 hours or get up to 60+ if you want.
You have a lot of clinical experience as a nurse already. Still, try to get a little bit of clinical experience outside of your nursing, just to get a little broader exposure.
[Related episode: How Much Shadowing Do I Need for Medical School?]
[11:45] Final Thoughts
If you’re a nurse and you want to be a physician, don’t be scared. Just go out and do it. It’s going to take some work, time, and money, but nursing schedules are pretty flexible, so you have a perfect opportunity to stay full-time as a nurse and still go back and earn the credits you need to fulfill those prereqs to get to medical school.
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my Premed Playbook series of books (available on Amazon), with installments on the personal statement, the medical school interview, and the MCAT.
- Related episode: This Nurse Practitioner Is on His Way to Medical School.
- Related episode: From Nursing to Accepted Premed: A Story of Lost Confidence.
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