The students who enter medicine School have excelled in college courses in science and other subjects, and are studying to work in a highly respected field with great personal rewards in the work experience of being a physician. Physician income varies by specialty, but is generous by most measures. Why would anyone want to leave medical school?
Students who enter medical school to fulfill someone else’s dreams may encounter setbacks. Not all medical students will become doctors. Although not a common problem, approximately 4% of US medical students who are not in a combined degree program do not graduate within six years of entering medical school. according to an October 2018 study. report by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
This report noted that 3.3% of medical students dropped out of school over a 20-year period from 1993-1994 to 2012-2013. By the end of the fourth year, 81.6% to 84.3% of students have graduated. At the end of the sixth year, the graduation rate was 95.9% for those not enrolled in combined degree programs.
For the years 2003-2004 to 2012-2013 combined, a dual bachelor’s degree and an MD had the highest attrition rate at 4.8%. MD degrees combined with MBA degrees had the lowest attrition at 0.8%. The students of the MD- Ph.D. programs graduated at a rate of 93.5% by the 10-year mark.
About half to two-thirds of those who left medical school did so for non-academic reasons. It was not a failure to handle the material, as admissions committees in the United States do not accept applicants who they believe will fail to become doctors.
Lack of desire to become a doctor
In some cases, students leave medical school because there is a conflict as to what career goal they are actually fulfilling. Medical school requires great discipline and steals most of the free time available. If a student is living their parent’s dream instead of their own, inner conflict can lead to unconscious sabotage.
Parents dream that their children will have a life equal to or better than theirs. In some cultures, bright students are expected to study either medicine or engineering. I was surprised at first to hear this, but now I understand how serious it is in some families.
Students who do not want to disappoint their parents, or who do not have a personal project, can first accept their parents’ wishes. Although members of the medical school admissions committee are trying to discern whether this is the own want to go to medical schoolthey can be deceived when a student tries to convince themselves that this is the career path they want.
If you are unsure, you should not attend. Try something else that you might prefer. The cost, emotionally and financially, is high, and dropping out is not without disappointing you or others.
Medical to research is a frequent alternative for students. Several students I know have taken this route; some decide medical school is what they want for themselves, and about half prefer research.
Others have chosen to take a program to become a physician assistant or nurse practitioner. Quite simply because they achieved a dazzling score on the MCAT doesn’t mean med school will be their cup of tea. While they love the patients, they may not love how long they ultimately sink in – or what they give up in their personal lives.
Competition in some medical schools is more stressful for some students and they choose a more pleasant environment.
Other people I’ve known have said, “I need to live my life for myself” and went to business school, entered the entertainment industry, enrolled in kitchen or have chosen to become stay-at-home parents. the fact that MD-MBA programs had the lowest attrition rate, I wondered if perhaps students believed that the joint degree left options open to them.
Mental illness or learning disability
Lack of desire to become a doctor is not the only reason medical students fail. An untreated or undertreated mental illness – whether it is an eating disorder, panic disorder or other anxiety disorder, major depression, bipolar disorder or another mental illness – can also be a barrier to success in medical school.
Newly discovered or untreated learning disabilities also contribute to medical student dropout. Students may deny their symptoms or be discouraged by others from seeking help. This is particularly true in the First year, and they can wait until it’s too late to get help. They may hear comments like, “Everyone is stressed out in med school. “
Many students worry that there is a stigma associated with seeing a mental health professional, and some families strongly encourage this consideration. Other students are even afraid to tell their parents that they have been referred for an assessment for fear of disappointing them. This has a snowball effect, with symptoms steadily increasing until the student is no longer able to complete homework or show up to class.
The student may be able to request time off, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem, as the stress of medical school will still be there when they return.
The bottom line is that psychological and psychiatric help is needed if the student is to successfully return to school. It is especially distressing when a student takes a leave of absence and the recommended therapy does not occur, or is initiated halfheartedly because the pressure is released. Unfortunately, this student may be ruining his dream.
While on leave, a student can work with a tutor or learning specialist and discover more effective ways to study than in the past. Perhaps the student can be encouraged to undertake a project that he was afraid to start or hesitant to ask for help to start.
If a leave is granted, there is a limit to the time off that students can take. If they haven’t made any effort to meet their challenges and get help, they will eventually come to the end of the grace period. The promotions committees will fire them or, in some cases, allow them to withdraw.
Some students come to medical school already knowing their vulnerability to a particular mental illness and will seek referral early in the first year so that there is no interruption in treatment. Students have come to me during orientation week asking for contact information for good mental health professionals.
These students have a high success rate. When they notice that they are starting to slip, they immediately go on a date. If they take medication, they take it regularly and get enough sleep, which allows them to stay stable in a stressful life. If a student decides to stop treatment against medical advice or without medical supervision, there can be serious ramifications.
However, many disorders often present for the first time in students who are just starting medical school and who are under increasing stress. As a result, students may not have developed good coping skills and are at risk of developing negative habits, such as not getting enough sleep or increasing their alcohol consumption. Such things can lead to conditions like depression, mood swings, and panic attacks.
If a future doctor wants to help others, they must be willing to look at themselves and correct harmful and unprofessional behavior. Self-discipline, self-motivation, and a willingness to ask for help are the best defense against failure.