I am not bound to please thee with my answers...when it comes to career.
April 27, 2014 3:05 PM   Subscribe

I graduated college last year with a degree in the science field. I have long had a passing interest in the healthcare field, and have had familial pressure to "become a doctor" even longer. It goes without saying that I decided to take an entry-level job related to healthcare. However, the more I see of healthcare, the less I like what I see, and the more I am reconsidering my future plans. The sources of the familial pressure, in turn, are getting more aggressive. (See inside.)

Last year, I posted this question with my concerns.


Since I graduated, I decided to get a taste of the field for myself, so I have been in an entry-level job at a medical practice (technically, a few entry-level tasks strung together, but oh, well). I have also retaken a few science classes at an excellent, affordable continuing education program near me...and I have done quite well (knock on wood, I'm about to finish two up).

I did take the MCAT - nothing spectacular, but passable, I suppose, if I really wanted to go.

However, I'm getting to the realization that I'm not passionate about this field. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it, but it's not exactly what I expected it to be. I won't elaborate on every single reason here, but feel free to send me a private message if you have a specific question.

I have discovered that I do enjoy the reading/analysis/problem-solving/writing aspects of medicine. It's why I wrote in the previous question that I might enjoy engineering if my math skills weren't just mediocre.

Now another longer-term goal has started to cross my mind - law school. I know some say, "oh no, law school is a waste and a scam!", but I genuinely find myself attracted to analysis on court cases in the newspapers. I am almost ashamed to say how much I liked Philosophy class in college (which, back then, seemed like a mundane core-curriculum requirement to me).

Once again, I am treating this as a long-term goal and merely a possibility at that for now.

However, certain family members have gotten disgruntled that I'm not at a medical school "yet". Yes, many relatives are physicians, and yes, there is lots of pressure to continue the "legacy"! Some seem like they would throw me in a burlap bag and ship me off to the sketchiest Caribbean school if they had the chance. I try to explain to them, "well, maybe I'll think about it," and they throw Caribbean medical school brochures at me and insinuate how much every other job sucks! (Never mind that they are constantly complaining about "Obamacare" and how they want to retire early.)

Yes, I could probably get into a Caribbean medical school - the problem is that I would have to want to be a doctor in the first place, a desire which fades by the day.

Any suggestions on how to communicate effectively with these relatives and get them to stop hounding me? Thanks!
posted by Seeking Direction to Human Relations (27 answers total)
One way you know you're growing up is when your family makes critical remarks about your career path, and you say mildly, "Huh. You might be right about that," then put it out of your mind and go on with your business.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:13 PM on April 27, 2014 [12 favorites]

Are these people supporting you? What leverage over you do they have exactly? Is it just that you want to maintain family peace? At some point, their hounding you is creating more friction than you standing up for yourself. Only you know your family and what that will look like.

If you really don't want to go to med school, you are going to need to say "I don't want to go to med school." As long as you leave the "I'll think about it" door open, they are going to keep trying to shove you through it.

So you can either tell them it's no longer an option or be vague and expect them to keep hounding you. You can't change their behavior but you can change your response to it.

There are quite a few "how to I get my family to do X?" questions posted here. Quite often, the advice comes down to being willing to say "I don't want to talk about this any more. If you persist, I will have to leave." And, this is the important part, if they persist, you leave. They aren't going to voluntarily stop pushing you in what they think is the right and obvious direction so the only way you can stop that happening is remove yourself from the situation.

Good luck. On a personal note, I've been in allied health for nearly a decade and it has put me right off healthcare so I totally get where you are coming from. I'm in school aiming for something in a STEM field. I can't believe anyone is really going to be happy in a field that someone else decides is the "right one". Particularly if the reason it's "right" it's what everyone else does. That's just loony.
posted by Beti at 3:31 PM on April 27, 2014

Tell them you've decided to go into health law. (My daughter-in-law does litigation relating to hospitals.)
posted by SemiSalt at 3:48 PM on April 27, 2014

This is a suggestion based on something that I have seen a few of my own students do in the past (I used to teach the pre-health nursing, phys therapy, etc courses and observed many, many students go through your dilemma...for whatever reason, they don't want to do health as a career, yet parents and family is exerting pressure).

Anyway, a few students that were able to resolve this well sat down with the family member and said something along the lines of "I am not happy studying (biology, anatomy, whatever) and it makes me miserable. What is more important to you? That I study and do something that makes me miserable, or that I'm happy pursuing my own dreams?" The students who did something like this reported that their parents often backed off and even supported the new dream/goal.

The other small comment (and there is nothing to suggest this in your question, but I have observed this) - if you are getting financial support from your parents, stop if you can. This way leads to parents thinking they have even more rights to dictate your future.
posted by Wolfster at 4:06 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Stop talking to your family about your career goals! Just stop! Give them vague answers if they needle you for details. Your life is yours alone, so start treating it that way. If your relatives are so far gone that they won't listen to you, dump them. They are toxic enough as it is.
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:46 PM on April 27, 2014

I'm in my thirties and have spent most of my life trying to turn my career into something that will make my family happy, and it is never, ever, ever going to happen. I've had a hard time getting free of that, but that won't stop me from urging you to soundly ignore them if you possibly can.

That said: Taking some interest in cases in the news is a terrible reason to go to law school right now. The only good reason to go to law school right now is because you have either brilliant grades AND a burning and unstoppable desire to be a lawyer, or a family member who is an attorney who you like and who will 100% guarantee you employment upon graduation. I'm serious. I just went through this whole mess. I still enjoy it academically. The job market is MURDER and it's turning a lot of the surviving jobs into hellholes. Some people still manage okay, but the odds are not in your favor. If you would not tread hot coals to get there, don't go to law school. I'm not even sure hot coals is enough. I'm serious about this, and have gotten more so since seeing how rough things have been for my former classmates about a year after graduation.

There's a lot of ways you can indulge that kind of curiosity without shelling out six figures for a degree where people now think you have insufficient ambition if you're not willing to take a $10/hr job (or in a lot of cases, a completely unpaid "internship") upon graduation for some nebulous promise of maybe working your way up to a living wage.
posted by Sequence at 4:47 PM on April 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

For the record, though, if you do have any specific questions about why I feel so virulently about it and why you might be an exception (oh believe me I thought I was an exception) then feel free to MeMail.
posted by Sequence at 4:52 PM on April 27, 2014

It's probably not the best path in terms of interpersonal skills and not provoking the situation, but if it were me, I'd ask them about some of the recent articles making the rounds about medicine as a career, i.e. "How Being a Doctor Became The Most Miserable Profession" (quote from article: "Nine of 10 doctors discourage others from joining the profession, and 300 physicians commit suicide every year. When did it get this bad?") and ask them what their response to that is.

my bias: I am a physician who is happy in my job and would consider recommending it to others. But I would NEVER recommend medicine to someone who isn't passionate and excited about it to begin with, because the training can be really soul-crushing, and if you don't start from a high point of enthusiasm, you'll end up so low you'll burn out before you even start your career. And the reason I'm happy is because I'm in a 'lifestyle specialty', which I was only able to achieve by doing well in a U.S. medical school, so I'd also never advocate a friend to go to any sketchy Caribbean school that could pretty much guarantee that even if you found a niche in medicine you liked, you likely couldn't land a residency spot in it. So I just wanted to bolster your self-confidence by agreeing that your family is WAY off the mark here and you are doing the right thing by not letting them push you into the wrong career for you.

I do think that you should just decide that whenever your family brings this up, to just tell them "no, I've given it a lot of thought, and I've decided that medicine is the wrong career for me. It wouldn't make me happy, and I'm not going to do it." If they press you, add "I'd appreciate if you'd stop bringing this up - I've made my decision and I'll let you know if I change my mind." And just repeat as many times as you have to or even just walk away/leave the conversation if you have to until they get the picture. Anyone who's pushing further at that point is boorish and extremely rude, and certainly not making their point as a career mentor by any means.

What I'm saying is, make sure that you're not giving a wishy-washy answer or sounding like you're giving a reason other than "I don't want to." Because anything else might be seen as something they can reason you out of or make it sound like things are up in the air. In your question above you avoid saying directly that you've decided that you don't want to pursue medicine as a career - you just say you're 'strongly reconsidering' and that you 'don't HATE it" - no. You can't be on the fence whatsoever when you talk to them about it, given that you know you 1. most likely do NOT want to do it, and 2. definitely do not want to talk to them about it anymore. If for some reason you decide that you might actually consider doing medicine in the future, that's your business, but for now, keep it simple and say it's not an option. And I really doubt that will happen. But I do think that you should do your due diligence, as you did with medicine, by talking to established lawyers/getting some direct experience if you can before you decide to pursue that path, as well.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:29 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

The go to book I recommend for folks in a situation like yours is: Hand Me Down Dreams. Perhaps it might help you as well?
posted by anitanita at 5:46 PM on April 27, 2014

Depnding on what you don't like about healthcare, you might still enjoy some areas of public health, such as health services research. There's also public policy, which involves research and analysis and is probably less risky than law school. With your science background, you could do a science policy program (I don't know anything about careers in that area).

And hey, enjoying philosophy is a good thing. Talking about it like it's shameful encourages dismissive attitudes toward a field of study that is potentially both practical and transformative (and makes it harder for phil majors to get jobs). So cut that out and wave your philosophy flag proudly.
posted by Comet Bug at 5:51 PM on April 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Was going to say what Sequence said, and what treehorn bunny said. I'm a physician, I really enjoy the material academically, I enjoy working with people (mostly) and helping people. I have true autonomy and make decisions that matter many times a day, which I find rewarding. Yes there are bad parts, and I'd be happy to elaborate if necessary, but I had no problem finding work in the middle of a recession either. Not generally the case for law-school grads.

I'll add that I was NOT mister gung-ho premed in undergrad either. But I liked things about the profession (see above), and quite honestly I liked the challenge of med school. I did not have family or friends that were doctors, so the grind of residency was a bit of a shock, but I survived. I had some experience in the business world before med school, and I knew there were parts of it that were not for me.

My sister and best friend are both attorneys, and they both spent very large chunks of the past 5 years unemployed (well not employed as attorneys...) and it wasn't because they weren't smart, from top-tier schools, or hard working. As Sequence said, the market is really really bad, and it's a lot of work and a lot of debt to finish law school.
My 2c, message me if I can be of any additional assistance. Good luck.
posted by jhs at 6:14 PM on April 27, 2014

2nding looking into public policy or public administration. You'll still have dealings with a lot of the problem solving and the interaction with policy that law offers, but you aren't chained to the law school debt machine.

Definitely don't do law school unless you're passionate and have job prospects already lined up.

Definitely don't start med school unless you're passionate.

Tell your family that you're not doing med school and the subject is closed.
posted by freshwater at 6:29 PM on April 27, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the feedback so far. To clarify, what is dissuading me from medicine (other than familial pressure) is what I perceive as an endless stream of insurance paperwork and billing codes that look like some long-lost Sanskrit writings. The "doctor" part excites me, the healthcare environment does not.
posted by Seeking Direction at 6:56 PM on April 27, 2014

There is a lot of paperwork, true. But you could learn the codes (it's not like you learn them ALL, just the ones related to your speciality), and a large medical practice would offer a decent amount of administrative support- wonderful, talented, good-looking (uh oh, I've tipped my hand) people to shoulder some/most of the burden of dealing with insurance companies. I don't know what types of practices you've shadowed, but you might see if you can peek at something on the larger side. On one hand, you're a cog in the wheel; on the other hand, you might get to focus on mostly your clinical work.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:32 PM on April 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I can't think of a job that doesn't involve bureaucracy and form-filling. (And, I have to point out, that is basically what lawyers do. Every day. All day. Well, mostly.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:51 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To be fair, they were smaller practices with dated computer systems.
posted by Seeking Direction at 7:54 PM on April 27, 2014

Response by poster: I hate to say this, but I'm actually re-re-considering things now...
posted by Seeking Direction at 8:02 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Aw, hey - I just mean, I would not let that be the deciding factor for or against any particular job. (Except, maybe lawyering.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:07 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: ...But I will keep the communication advice in mind, because I am the one to make my own decision, not anybody else. Thanks!
posted by Seeking Direction at 8:07 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can look into immigrating to a country that doesn't deal with the insurance insanity.
posted by Dynex at 8:09 PM on April 27, 2014

Response by poster: I'm happy with where I live despite its quirks, thanks.
posted by Seeking Direction at 8:12 PM on April 27, 2014

If you like analysis, there's always medical research, which comes with its own set of bureaucracy and paperwork, but a lot of just doing the research and analysis and presenting your findings.

Not sure how this field with change after the ACA, but there's also the option for cash-only/concierge medicine models.
posted by trivia genius at 8:20 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe APN? In a lot of places they can prescribe and are getting more and more autonomous...as nurses it's very much a hands on, patient centered thing but charting is charting...billing is handled by separate departments in both of my places of work.
posted by yodelingisfun at 2:08 PM on April 28, 2014

I'm in emergency medicine and I know zero ICD-9 or 10 codes, and do zero insurance paperwork.

But you must do a chart on every patient. That can be quite tiresome but at least it is a little like telling a story (I also enjoy writing).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:58 PM on April 28, 2014

Plus one to the research point. You just have to be OK with writing continuously for grant money and with making less money than other folks, although it doesn't sound like money is your motivation here (it just becomes motivating to many people once they have $200K in debt).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:00 PM on April 28, 2014

Off the top of my head, consider technical writing. That might be a really good fit for you. Maybe you might want to look at actuarial science or forensic accounting, if your skills in math are decent enough to do it. Then go and find a job that is interesting to you, that pays the bills, while you figure out what you want to do.

Honestly, your best friend right now would be a copy of "What Color is your Parachute". You need to find out what else you want to do. Then go and do it.
posted by mitschlag at 10:17 AM on April 29, 2014

What about a career in science law.
posted by Kerasia at 3:48 PM on April 29, 2014

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