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Studying medicine in your 40s

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#1 tia2009

Posted 22 February 2013 - 11:48 AM

I’m after some objective, unbiased opinions please. Assuming I meet the criteria to enrol, would it be nuts to study medicine in my 40s, say 45ish? I am pondering the idea of studying medicine, with the aim of general practice later on. I realise I would be well into my 50s by the time I register. I work in a health related field at present and money is definitely not a driver, nor would it be a too much of a problem whilst studying. However time and energy may be issues, as I have children who will be entering their teens when I’m 45.

So, do you think it’s doable? Pros and cons? Thanks.

#2 Cirrus

Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:01 PM

No personal experience, but I think the hardest part would be the internship years when you are on call/night shift etc - not just the years of uni classes.
You could track down someone to ask what their typical week looks like in that time - then imagine fitting your family around that (including sleep deprivation). Good on you for considering it!

#3 Kay1

Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:04 PM

I have a friend who's mum did this when she was in high school. original.gif She ended up graduating a year after her own son who also did medicine. Everyone was incredibly proud of her.

#4 Rosiebird

Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:07 PM

If you want to be a GP (or perhaps psychiatrist) yes. A cardiologist/surgeon/obstetrician etc - no.

Sorry -reread your post. GP training can be started after only 2hospital years so if you can manage the horrible hours for 2yrs, it will be okay after that. But it is comparable to having a 6week old baby for 2yrs in terms of sleep deprivation and general deprivation of liberty.

Edited by rosiebird, 22 February 2013 - 12:11 PM.

#5 jewel2

Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:13 PM

I have spoken with several ladies in the late 30s and in their 40s who have got into medicine.
Some have been nurses or health workers, and others have started studying later after kids.
Although I will be honest you will not find many students in their 40s, but they do exist.

They said it can be done, and Universities do not take age into account when applying. If your prepared and have the scores go for it.

paging dr forum has lots of info on the GAMSAT  test and application.

Your never too old to study.  Yes you may not become a surgeon(due to age)  but medicine has many fields in which you can go into eg Gp that may suit your lifestyle.
Some people will say, oh but you still have to specialise after your intern year, which can take several years. Yes you do, but your working as a doctor and getting paid whilst doing this training.

In America they have students who are 50 on their medicine courses.

Good Luck

#6 Bel Rowley

Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:23 PM

My cousin is in her mid-40s, has 3 young children, and started Medicine a couple of years ago. I think her rationale was that she still planned to work for another 20-30 years, may as well be doing something she loves.

#7 podg

Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:31 PM

I'm a doctor.

Um, yep. I'd say it would be incredibly difficult, particularly those hospital years. 2 years is an absolute minimum for quality experience too.

GP training schemes may also direct you to a region rather than happen close to your family.

I have a friend who studied medicine from the age of 35. She ran into lots of age prejudice trying to get on training schemes, and ended up in obstetrics in a regional area. GP may have less problems in that regard.

Good luck, but why would you voluntarily make your life so much harder for so long?

#8 daniken

Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:44 PM

I am (trying to) complete veterinary studies with one nine-month old and working. It can be done, but the university and everyone around you has to be flexible and you have to plan ahead meticulously...

Internships are also a problem, but if you get yourself a live-in nanny, it can free up the days immensely. we're lucky, my husband is home 3 days per week.

#9 tia2009

Posted 22 February 2013 - 01:24 PM

QUOTE (Bel Rowley @ 22/02/2013, 01:23 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My cousin is in her mid-40s, has 3 young children, and started Medicine a couple of years ago. I think her rationale was that she still planned to work for another 20-30 years, may as well be doing something she loves.

This is my rationale too. I actually enrolled into medicine straight from high school but left barely into the first semester and completed an entirely different degree only to find my career choices have somewhat meandered back into health. I don’t regret the change of plans back then as it wasn’t right for me at the time. Now I feel ready and would very much like to give it a go, although certainly much older and with more on my plate!

The age factor and the intern years do scare me, so I would like to think my kids would be independent enough by then, and family life stable enough, for me to commit and see it through.

It's lovely to hear that others have succeeded in doing this.

#10 busy_bee

Posted 22 February 2013 - 07:23 PM

Another doctor here - and echo the thoughts of also considering internship and training requirements.

Even with GP training there is internship + hospital rotations before the GP part.

Even the 'urban' GP schemes have a 6 month rural component - something to think about.

#11 Brownbear

Posted 22 February 2013 - 07:40 PM

I am a GP trainee, and in my training program there are lots of people in their 40s. Many are doctors who are switching from a different specialty or have international qualifications, but some graduated medical school quite late. You definitely wouldn't be out of place.

I am in one of the metropolitan schemes, and the 'rural' training component is actually not that bad - several of the practices that qualify as 'rural' are only 20 minutes drive from my house (I live about 20 minutes from the city).

The main problem would be, as others have said, the crappy intern and resident years that are required before you get out of the hospitals. Having said that, I was a resident with an 8-month-old, and survived.

If you become a GP at 50, you still have 15-20 working years left, so why not??

#12 barrington

Posted 22 February 2013 - 07:52 PM

Sure its doable.  But personally I wouldn't want to potentially either move my children or live apart from my family for my intern year.  My sister was allocated her 7th choice of intern placement last year.

#13 sedawson

Posted 22 February 2013 - 07:52 PM

It IS doable. It represents a huge investment of time, energy and money, but it is definitely doable. Have you been to uni before? I don't think you mentioned if you have. It's hard. I worked two jobs and parented while I studied full time and I only managed it for a year before cutting right back.

I think the issue is that you have to make killer grades to go through medicine, don't you? But you have to weigh things up according to your priorities.

I know this is a bit banal and obvious, but you do only have one life. If this is what you really want, then you should do it. You know what women are like, we can manage anything.

#14 barrington

Posted 22 February 2013 - 07:58 PM

QUOTE (tia2009 @ 22/02/2013, 11:48 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Assuming I meet the criteria to enrol, would it be nuts to study medicine in my 40s, say 45ish?
I want to be sure you know that getting into a postgrad med course is not just 'meeting the criteria'.

#15 wattle-bird

Posted 22 February 2013 - 08:07 PM

I had 2-3   "35 yr old +"  students in my medical school class. In general they were hardworking but had no problem with any of the class work. Sorry I don't know how they went later after internship.

As far as ageism goes, I remember they each encountered a fair bit of thinly veiled anger at "wasting a med school place" from various professors and consultants (and other students) along the way. The thinking was, with a doctor shortage, limited places and so much of medical school fees subsidized by the government, how could they "use up" a place and then only "give back" for less than 20 years.

FWIW I think women who train then never go back after kids are also criticized equally heavily.

I'm not saying such an attitude is right, but its worth thinking about and being ok with in your own mind, in case you encounter the same.

#16 lotsa

Posted 22 February 2013 - 08:16 PM

I am the parent of a 3rd yr med student so I have not even seen the hard yrs yet and from my perspective it would be tricky if you did not have a supportive partner and extended family. If you have those then go for it!

Best of luck with your decision.

#17 bubblelou

Posted 22 February 2013 - 08:35 PM

We had 3 students in my cohort who were 40+ when they started.  One withdraw after 1st year.  One graduated with us and one is in her final year (repeated a year).

Edited by bubblelou, 22 February 2013 - 08:36 PM.

#18 AliC05

Posted 22 February 2013 - 08:49 PM

Im currently a 31 yr old 4th yr med student with a 20 month old.

Its certainly do-able.

My situation is more chaotic because Im married to a shift worker which can make some of the evening shifts as a student tricky. He will probably have to drop back to part time when I start working to try and make family life work.

I think if you have a supportive partner and are willing to work then you will b ok.

Im definitely not the oldest and Im in an undergrad degree - there are people in their 40's and I think if you can cope with hanging out with people 10+ yrs younger - you'll be fine!! Its like re-living your youth!!!

#19 kwiggle

Posted 22 February 2013 - 08:55 PM

Also a doctor.  I finished uni 8 years ago and am yet to complete specialist training, but am doing a long programme, not GP.  I also love my job and that definitely helps.
It is an all-consuming profession though - I know very few who can "turn the doctor off" in their private lives.  We are selfish people at home, and I think our families suffer at times.

The flip side is that I also think my family have role models who feel a sense of vocation, who work hard, and feel we genuinely contribute to society.  Your children would see the sacrifices of adult learning, and I'm sure would be immensely proud to watch you work towards fulfilling your dreams.

Ultimately if you want to do your age is irrelevant.  I graduated with plenty of people in their late 30s and 40s, and I don't think that their age was particularly important to their ability to meet the requirements of the course or post-grad training.

#20 What'sNext??

Posted 22 February 2013 - 08:56 PM

I don't think you are ever too old.  

But, I from personal experience (married to a training doctor in 11th year of training) would share the following things to consider in the decision;
- In many ways the uni part was the easiest. Life was at least predictable and plan-able. You know when major exams are and you still have weekends available (although there is always more study to do).
- rural training requirements.  DH has done 2 3 month stints (3 months is minimum in intern year) and 1 6 month stint in his training to date. Your children will obviously be in school and not as portable as younger kids are. How would you feel about having significant periods away from the family?
- unpredictable rosters. Every week is different.  There is no predicability, except the it will be constantly changing. Nights, days, long days, weekends.  Think about how you would manage this and then think pragmatically about the impact on your family.  There is no opportunity for any regular commitment.  Also, some hospitals are better than others, there will be times where you have no idea what your work roster will be a month out. It's very very hard to plan.  If your DH works full time (I did for a long time) how will his work feel if he needs to be the Reliable parent.  Or will you outsource and get a nanny?  Extended family? How will you cope if one of your children is having a hard time and you can't be there physically or emotionally?
- carers leave / sick leave. Supposedly exists, but you really shouldn't ever take it as it shows you are not commited.  As ridiculous as it is, and as much as there is some change happening, don't expect to be able to take time off if there are any problems with the kids.
- Christmas/Easter/birthdays etc. whether you can turn up or not is out of your control.  My DH has seen one of our DD's awake on her birthday only the day she was born. Every other birthday he has been rostered long days.  Swapping shifts sounds easy, but the rosters are so complex it's almost impossible.
- pp's have commented on the mentality you will face, but no one specifically on the mentality that as an intern and junior reg much of your job is paper pushing and chasing.  And you are pretty much bottom of the food chain.   DH found this frustrating.  He was in health profession before studying med.

I firmly believe you can do anything, but there are real compromises to doing any thing.  Studying med with kids is a whole family decision. Make sure your DH knows exactly what he's signing up for. It's not an easy road- as you need him to know that during the training years, you caanot commit to anything.  

On the very very positive- DH loves what he does.  And that is worth everything, because I really do love him.   But it's not easy being the one being supportive partner, sole parent (yes it has some times been like this) and the one whose own needs and job come a very far second. Talk about it a lot.  Talk about worst case scenario (working at a distant training hospital) and then talk about it again.

Good luck with the decision!  

#21 #YKG

Posted 22 February 2013 - 09:00 PM

Go for it, i was looking at paper work at work a couple weeks ago and noticed that about 3-4 first year interns where between 35-55. Never too late to follow your dreams.

Just to add yes the "sh*t kicker" years suck but they dont last forever, a hospital Reg & GP reg are different, GP reg are in private practice and have different demands and roster to hospital reg, find a GP reg and have a chat about the demands as you will do hospital rounds, rural round and private clinic rounds. For GP reg I recomend going to the RACGP and AGPET websites, the RACGP has a PDF flow chart of the pathway for a GP registrar they both have great info.

As your kids will be teens when you graduate nanny or care taking should be easier, in complete honesty it is quiet common for female Drs to take intermitent breaks due to pregnancy during intern/res and reg years, the training providers and hospitals do have allowances for that, older kids would propably be easier then little kids.

Edited by YellowKittyGlenn, 22 February 2013 - 09:12 PM.

#22 tia2009

Posted 23 February 2013 - 12:50 PM

QUOTE (barrington @ 22/02/2013, 08:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I want to be sure you know that getting into a postgrad med course is not just 'meeting the criteria'.

I understand it's a combination of academic marks, an entrance exam and an interview. Of course I may not get in,but I would like to know if its a wise choice for me and my family before I go through the application process.

Lots to think about here, thank you for the informative posts. My husband is completely supportive but he said only on the condition that we have no mortgage when I start the degree, which is about the timeframe I'm looking at anyway. My parents are 100% behind the idea and said they will assist wherever they can. So it would be up to me, and whether I have the capacity and commitment.

Is it possible to hold down a part time job whilst studying, at least in the first few years? Or is it an all or nothing type of workload at uni? I did work throughout my previous stint at uni but it only required 16 hours a week of campus time.

#23 ~~~~!eternity!~~~~

Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:05 PM

If it were me I'd think about exactly why I wanted to be a doctor and then consider other options along those lines but with much less commitment required training wise.

For example if you like the concept because of the patient contact, helping with emotional problems etc then maybe consider psychology or counselling.

If you like the concept of physical care then what about nursing or paramedic training?

If you like the concept of the body, anatomy etc then what about physiotherapy?

I think sometimes what we see in a job is just the surface factors. Or we like one part of the job more than others and don't quite realise it. Pinning down exactly what you like about the concept of being a doctor will open your eyes to other opportunities that you may not have thought of.

#24 sedawson

Posted 23 February 2013 - 03:36 PM

Is it possible to hold down a part time job whilst studying, at least in the first few years? Or is it an all or nothing type of workload at uni? I did work throughout my previous stint at uni but it only required 16 hours a week of campus time.

It depends? For me I was doing a Psych degree and working a day and a night job and parenting and I couldn't make the required grades. I needed 75% and I was only making about 68%. I expect you could certainly do one part time job, but you'll do better at Uni if you aren't working at all.

#25 AliC05

Posted 23 February 2013 - 09:50 PM

Ive managed to work part time during my med degree - although its got harder since having DS - primarily bc of DHs shift work (so I cant guarantee I will have "childcare" on the weekend).

I used to do an allied health shift every Sunday and then do more work during the holidays (initially there were heaps of holidays but they've definitely dried up now!!!).

I think if depends how good you are at being efficient.
Some single people with no family never worked and other people did alot of work.

Im fortunate - allied health work complements medical work and I would sometimes stay back after work and see patients as a med student (which was a requirement in 1st and 2nd year).

The hours on campus will probably vary from degree to degree. Certainly some people in my year did quiet alot of work hours during semester because they were happy to skip non-compulsory lectures.

Im a nerd. Skipping things makes me nervous!!!
Its alot harder once you get into the clinical years (usually the last 2 years of any med degree). You are expected to be at the hospital more and more Ive found - although it does depend on your team and what specialty you are in (surgical placements are always a killer!!).

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