Ayesha initially lost confidence on the premed path due to poor grades, and she became a nurse instead. But her dream never left her. Now she has an acceptance to medical school.
An avid listener to this podcast, Ayesha is now on the show to share her story of going from nursing to premed. We talk about the reboot to her premed journey after doubting herself while in undergrad, dealing with self-doubt, and then transitioning from nursing to medicine.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:07] Ayesha’s Interest in Medicine
Ayesha always wanted to be a physician when she was younger, but her family influenced her toward nursing. Her mom and her aunts are nurses. So she always grew up hearing stories about the different patients in the hospital.Health is an equalizer in way. Whether you're a janitor or the leader of the free world, everyone is vulnerable to health problems.Click To Tweet
Attending Georgetown in her undergrad, Ayesha met a lot of premed students who had strong convictions to medicine. It wasn’t the same for her because she had a lot of interests such as international health and international affairs. She didn’t know at the time that she could really incorporate all these interests within medicine.
Going from Nursing to Medicine: Initial Thoughts
Her transition in interest from nursing to medicine actually occurred the moment she became a nurse. When working as a nurse in critical care in D.C., Ayesha worked intimately with the residents, attendings, and interns.
Through interdisciplinary rounds, she got exposed to the thought process used by physicians to formulate a treatment plan. She also realized that a lot of the questions she was interested in were beyond the scope of practice for a nurse. She was interested in knowing about the in-depth pathology and developing a treatment plan for the patient.If it's in your heart to be a physician, you're not going to be happy with any other career, even if it's as close as nursing.Click To Tweet
She was also able to talk with friends who were residents, medical students, and premed students. Additionally, she did some introspection and began questioning whether she’d be going into medicine for the right reasons. She also reflected on some of the academic struggles she had in undergrad. She began questioning her own personal abilities.
Through deep self-reflection and deciding what path would allow her not to have any regrets, she concluded that medicine was for her.
[07:01] Realizing Her Subconscious Desire to Be a Physician
When Ayesha was transitioning from undergrad into a real job as a nurse, she wanted to journal what she’d been experiencing in the hospital as well as what she wanted for herself and her future.
She was in Barnes and Noble, and she found a magnet saying “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Immediately, the first thought that came to her mind was being a physician.Ayesha read a magnet that said, 'What would you do if you knew you could not fail?' Immediately, she thought of being a physician.Click To Tweet
This actually shocked her because she didn’t know it was that strong in her subconscious. She then had to really dig into what she could get from medicine that she couldn’t get from nursing.
A Desire to Serve the Underserved as a Physician
Ayesha realized she wanted to be a physician to serve underserved and vulnerable populations, both domestically and internationally. Being a daughter to Kenyan immigrants, she identifies strongly with her Kenyan heritage. She actually went through internships in undergrad, working with UN aids and doing clinical rotations in Ghana.
Then she realized that having the autonomy of a physician is how she wanted to be able to help these populations. She considered advanced degrees in nursing as a logical next step to increase her autonomy. But she knew in her heart that she wanted to be a physician, and she wouldn’t have been happy had she tried another career due to fear, when she really wanted to be a physician.She knew in her heart that she wanted to be a physician. She wouldn't have been happy had she pursued another career due to fear.Click To Tweet
[10:00] Self-Doubt in the Transition from Nursing to Premed
During her freshman year at Georgetown, Ayesha had a humbling experience academically. Excelling in high school, she thought she was going to easily do the same in college. But she found herself struggling in human biology during the first semester.
It came to a point where she had to withdraw from the course since she didn’t want to end up with a horrible grade on her transcript. She thought she was a failure, and that got stuck in her subconscious. So she began questioning her abilities and whether she was smart enough.I realized that it was me who was really stopping myself from pursuing medicine—because of fear of not being able to perform well in the sciences.Click To Tweet
Ayesha adds that she got overly involved in extracurriculars, and that took away from the time she needed to study. Having gone through a rigorous high school, she came into college not realizing how much time she would need for classes.
[14:00] Questioning Medical School Myths
Ayesha did a do-it-yourself premed postbac after making a connection with someone who was on the same path. She talked to other friends who were medical students or premeds and picked their brains. She also searched for information online.
Ayesha mentioned some of the myths that she was able to break free from after listening to this podcast. One of those myths is that if you don’t have a 4.0 GPA and a 515 on the MCAT, you’re never getting into medical school. A lot of people think you have to be stellar in every single aspect of your application to get into medical school.
Medical schools want excellence but it has to be genuine to you. Your passion must be real. They want good numbers but not to the extent that a lot of premeds talk about.Med schools want excellence, but they want it in a way that is genuine to you, in a way that shows that your passion for medicine is real.Click To Tweet
[16:38] Collaboration, Not Competition
Ayesha did her postbac at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she enrolled as a non-degree seeking student. She was interacting with students younger than her and going to college for the first time. She saw the sheer competitiveness that these premeds brought to the table. This actually shocked her.
Since she had experience working in health care, she knew from experience that teamwork is a huge part of medicine. At times, this wasn’t reflected in all students, although she found a great group of students who displayed teamwork and collaboration. She considers them as instrumental in succeeding in her postbac program.Teamwork is a huge part of medicine. To get to where you want to be, you need to be able to collaborate with others.Click To Tweet
She would just interact with her fellow premeds in class in an informal way. And she’d usually invite them to study with her in the library. They would then each share what they understand about the course material, helping each other with their weak points.
[21:20] Time Management as a Nurse and Premed Student
Ayesha found it a struggle to fit everything in. As a nurse, she would work three 12-hour shifts a week. There were times she would work a night shift and then have to rush to class in the morning. She lives in Baltimore and works in DC, so commuting was pretty difficult, too. She would do her 12-hour shift, then stay up until 2 am to study and prepare for class the next day.What really strengthened during that time period was my time management and prioritization skills. I learned how to say 'no' and not feel guilty.Click To Tweet
It was exhausting, but she found strength in developing her time management and prioritization skills. As life goes on, it’s going to get busier and busier. Developing time management skills is an effort that will pay off many times.
Self-Care as a Busy Premed Student and Nurse
Ayesha was able to transition from full-time to part-time nursing during the second year of her premed postbac. This allowed her to better accommodate both work and school while keeping her sanity.
The biggest challenge through this whole transition has been self-care and making time for herself. She was putting everything else before her, not realizing that she wasn’t at her best. She couldn’t be her best in all those things she’s juggling if she didn’t take some time for herself.
Once Ayesha became more conscious and more deliberate in finding time for herself, balancing was still difficult but it was more manageable.
[25:00] Writing the Medical School Personal Statement
Ayesha found writing the personal statement as the hardest part during her med school application process. With her long commutes, she was listening to this podcast and all our other MedEd Media podcasts, specifically about writing personal statements. And she was constantly practicing and rehearsing her story aloud. Shaping her story was difficult.
She had to compress all these years of being an undergrad, then transitioning to nursing, and then being a premed student. Putting it all together in one nice personal statement was hard. She spent months working on it; it took her a while to get to a personal statement she was happy with.
Outside the guidance offered by MedEd Media podcasts, she leaned on family and friends who really knew her. She would write a ton of drafts and ask them to read them over for her. Thankfully, her friends were honest to tell her where she needed to go deeper.
She also liked having individuals who didn’t know her too well read her personal statement. That way, she could ask them what they were able to get from the personal statement. She could ask what characteristics and values they had taken away from it.
Check out my book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement (Amazon link here) to learn more about how you can write a better personal statement.
[27:45] The Interview Process: Tell Me About Yourself
Ayesha got interviews at a number of schools, and she got multiple acceptances. She has read my book The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview. What she liked about the book was that I included transcripts of me working with students on mock interviews and my feedback to their answers.
Many books about the medical school interview just give you the various types of questions you may receive at your interviews, and they might include an example of a good answer. But reading the student’s first response, then the feedback, and then the revised response, as it is in The Premed Playbook, you can really learn the difference between a poor response and a good response.
How to Respond to “Tell Me About Yourself” in the Medical School Interview
A lot of students struggle with the question, “Tell me about yourself.” You can take it in so many directions, and it can really set the tone for your whole interview.When the interviewer just says, 'Tell me about yourself,' you can take it in so many different directions.Click To Tweet
In her case, Ayesha decided to highlight the values of family and building community in response to “Tell me about yourself.” This was part of her story. It was emphasized in her upbringing, and she found herself always searching for a community in every place she went. She has always felt the need to find a strong community, and that’s part of why she wants to work for underserved and vulnerable populations.
So being able to bring this up in response to the “Tell Me About Yourself” question, it led her to talk about a lot of the community service work she did, as well as the different populations she worked with as a nurse. This would get her interview started on a good foot.
[31:10] Achieving Success: How Do You Do It?
Prayer really helped Ayesha in the medical school application process. Faith was a huge aspect for her. At times she felt nervous, questioning the process, but she realized some things are out of your control. If you just put your best foot forward, then you can’t blame yourself.
So when she got to the point that she had reviewed everything, she knew that she had put her best foot forward and God would do the rest. She was able to avoid stressing too much, knowing there’s a higher power in place.
Ultimately, Ayesha leaves us with great advice: Trust the process and appreciate the journey. If you have a strong sense of your purpose, then your whole journey will be meaningful, even in the hard parts. She likely wouldn’t have had that clarity if she had followed a more direct, traditional path to medicine. So keep thriving and striving, and all things will work out in the end.Trust the process and believe in yourself. Surround yourself with folks who will uplift you and empower you to be the best version of yourself.Click To Tweet
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: ICU Nurse Turned Medical Student Shares Her Journey.
- Related episode: This Nurse Practitioner Is on His Way to Medical School.
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!