Discernment for the People-Oriented Free Spirits
August 16, 2011 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Are there any ENFPs (Myers-Briggs Type) medical doctors out there with advice on how to get through all of the mundane, logical coursework that prerequisites and medical school classes entail?

As a recent graduate about to do the year of coursework required to take the MCAT, I just have so much anxiety over whether this is the right field for me since my Ne (Extraverted intuition) is always free associating and making connections at a thousand miles an hour, seeking novelty and creativity, and quickly tiring of having to do the same task over and over again. I know that I'm intelligent enough to get As in the prerequisites (chemistry, biology, organic, etc.) and that I have so much passion for what I'll be doing someday as a doctor, practicing holistic patient-centered care. I know with my empathy and way of connecting with people on their level, and creative problem solving skills, I have the potential to be a great doctor if I can get through all of the busy work and remain organized and pay attention to details.

Aside from excessive boredom, I struggle with wanting think about people over whatever else I should be thinking about. Personal relationships have, in the past, thrown a kink into my academic pursuits, and I'm terrified that I'll form an emotional attachment to someone a month before the MCAT and bomb it for lack of preparation or sleep. That's just an example of how emotionally-driven and people oriented my brain is.

Have you been able to tame your brain and make it work "inside a box" for the duration of time (~6 years) it takes to become an MD or DO? Any strategies or inspiring stories are welcome.
posted by sunnychef88 to Education (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
IANAD, and IANAENFP (although my husband is), but here's a few things that occurred to me:

-in any profession where you have a sustained period of training, ENFP's are going to struggle to get through it, especially when parts of it are boring. Most ENFP's I know change jobs every few years because they like novelty and change. It might be really, really, tough for you to stick it out, especially if you don't see the relevance or how it helps people. That's not to say you can't do it - intellectually, you're probably far more than capable. But you will be fighting against your personality's instinct to start over or change things up the whole time. However, YOU CAN DO IT. Personality doesn't define you - you don't have to believe that whatever it says on the tin is how your life wlil be.

-as far as the emotional attachment goes, you will, just to survive med school, need to shut off that part of your personality for a while. Not just now, but all throughout - you can't afford to become emotionally connected to someone when you need your entire attention devoted to school. Consider carefully what social situations you put yourself in. If you feel yourself getting attached, get a classmate to remind you of all the reasons you need to focus on school. Again, you can do this. Just take it one step at a time.

-ENFP/ESFP are sometimes synonymous with ADD/ADHD - shifting attention, extremely social, very emotional, etc. There have been some studies done, and I actually think that a lot of kids diagnosed with ADD/ADHD just have those two strong personality types.

Here are some things that have helped my students in the past:

1. set targets, and reward yourself for acheiving them
2. keep a planner and schedule study time, and stick to it. see number 1
3. have a friend commit to keeping you on track
4. build socialising into your study time if at all possible. but make sure study groups are STUDY first, groups second
5. connect with your teachers - ask questions, get to know them, have them help you see the humanity in the "boring" stuff
6. if you can find the time, volunteer at a hospital or another setting where you can see the end goal - helping people - and it becomes more concrete for you. that'll help with motivation

on preview, liketitanic is right - you have a choice. Life is about learning to manage your options and make the best choices, and that just happens to be something that is more difficult for ENFP's at times. Be proud of the choices you've made so far that have brought you to this point. Be proud that you're on the way to doing what you want to in life. You can do this. You ARE doing this.
posted by guster4lovers at 1:55 PM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I say it as someone who also is doing this and has the attention span of a flea...if one thinks of it as "busy work" or "inside a box," one is seriously screwed. I'm sure you didn't mean to be flippant, but it's worth noting that the happiest students/residents/MDs I know are the ones who genuinely enjoyed the science AND the minutiae AND the patients. "Enjoy" doesn't mean every instant, but still. The ones who didn't enjoy at least MOST of all three aspects are the "writer/physicians," the consultants, the radiologists... (That was a joke, radiologists! I know you love medicine.)

While I hate to go all old and wise, planning to enter med school at 35 has given me time to see the trajectories of individual friends from college, with many different personalities and learning styles, as they have (or not) gone through medical training. So it's anecdata, but anecdata with teeth.

Exercise is helping me as I speak, as liketitanic suggests.
posted by skbw at 1:58 PM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Although you don't sound particularly old ;-D, oldpremeds is a lot more sympathetic to these (very legit) concerns (which I share) than, shall we say, some of the better-known premed boards.
posted by skbw at 2:31 PM on August 16, 2011

Best answer: If you think of all that work as tedium that's unworthy of you, then you'll do very poorly. Think of it instead like playing a game, where you get a thrill by "winning." You will master the "game" if you practice a lot.

You might also identify yourself as a person with dramatic personal relationships. You're going to have to put aside that part of your identity for the time being. One med school tells its first-year students, "You are all smart enough to handle the material, which is why you were admitted. People who have academic problems or need to drop out do so usually because of a relationship."
posted by deanc at 2:54 PM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I had an answer earlier but the window got closed accidentally. And there is sound advice up-thread.

Anyway, my suggestion is to step back and ask yourself "Why medicine?" What about the science, the culture and institution of medicine, the endless minutiae of your post-rounds to-do list, the intense moments of human drama that motivate you to pursue this particular career? It's got to be awfully worth it to go through all of the trouble and expense to dedicate your life to this profession.

Big picture aside, I would recommend you to experience some of these aspects of medicine before committing yourself to this path--shadow a physician, volunteer at a hospital/emergency dept., do research (clinical/translational/basic science)--and see what it's like on a day-to-day basis to be doing the things a physician would be doing. I would also recommend reading some of the medical writing that's been published in the New Yorker. The articles are well written and quite accessible to someone not initiated in the field.

I think having a fair sense of why you're pursuing these goals--it's a long road ahead--will make appreciate each moment of the journey, even if there are times you would rather much be sleeping instead of studying or answering a page...
posted by scalespace at 10:27 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Few things come to mind, first if you want to do patient care, surely a doctor is not the only way about it? What about alternative choices like nursing?

Also, the doctors I've seen seem to maintain a very good patient-doctor professional distance, I'd frankly be quite turned off, if not concerned by a hyper happy doctor... but then again I hail from asia, so ymmv.

Finally, like the young rope-rider mentions, do your research into the validity of MBTI ;-) You are more than 4 letters.
posted by TrinsicWS at 6:09 AM on August 17, 2011

IANAD, but I do work with specialist physicians, and from what I see they spend very, very little time 'caring' for their patients. It is the nurses, physiotherapists, etc who are involved with caring for the actual person, tending to his or her needs, interacting with family. Interactions between physicians and patients/families are generally quick, information is communicated in a scientific manner, often above the level of understanding of the patient/family, and the physicians move on to the next patient on their long list of patients. The physicians that I see are very smart and know a great deal about many different medical states and conditions, and their job is to apply this info (ie chemistry, science, medicine, pharmacology) in an appropriate manner.

From the outside, practicing medicine doesn't really seem creative, or about passion. It's very logical and scientific ie more of the what you get with the MCAT and science classes.
posted by lulu68 at 6:52 AM on August 17, 2011

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