How to Overcome Coronavirus-Driven Misgivings About Applying to Medical School

The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought to light, in an unprecedented way, both the challenges and the rewards of being a health care provider. News coverage has featured celebrations of providers’ bravery as they rise to meet the needs of a sickened population, yet stories have also covered the dark realities of medical care in the current climate: providers facing burnout, trauma-related symptoms and even suicide.

While the number of applications to medical school is significantly up this year, the pandemic may be causing other potential premed students to question whether becoming a physician is the right choice for them.

[READ: How to Decide If Going to Medical School and Being a Doctor Is Worth It.]

If the COVID-19 crisis is giving you pause about applying to medical school, it is important to determine the roots of your misgivings and to weigh whether they are reason enough to consider an alternate career path. These misgivings may or may not reflect your attitude toward medicine as a whole, but it is important to address them before you commit to a career in medicine.

Here are some thoughts that may be driving your uncertainty around becoming a physician.

“I’m Not Sure That I Could Step Up in a Time of Crisis.”

Caring for patients during a pandemic is frightening, and it is normal to question whether you would be able to put the health needs of others over your own at such times.

Many physicians feel that it is part of their professional and moral duties to serve patients during the ongoing pandemic. However, just because providers may feel called to serve at this time does not mean they are not scared about the consequences of doing so or that they do so without any reservations.

Chances are that before the novel coronavirus hit, most physicians would not have known how they would react as providers in the context of a global health crisis. The fact that you do not know how you would respond does not mean you are ill-suited to a career in medicine.

[Read: What to Do if Your Medical School Is Online This Fall Due to Coronavirus.]

Instead of agonizing over whether you would be able to step up in an emergency, think about whether you would be able to step up in the day-to-day practice of medicine. Are you willing to take care of patients with infectious diseases? Are you willing to leave work hours late? Are you willing to miss holidays, birthdays and other important personal occasions to fulfill your clinical duties?

Focus on your ability to perform during ordinary times, remembering that the current medical climate is extraordinary.

“I’m Not Sure if Taking on This Much Debt Is a Good Idea in Light of the Current Economy.”

Med school is expensive, and for most students that means taking on loans and being unable to earn any appreciable sum of money for four years. After the stock market crash this past spring and millions filing for unemployment due to pandemic-related job losses, you may be wary of plunging yourself into debt during these precarious financial times.

[Read: What the Coronavirus Pandemic Means for Premed Students.]

While it is likely that our economy will move toward recovery in the coming years, you should consider your current financial situation and occupational goals before you apply to medical school, especially if your finances have been affected by COVID-19. Financial misgivings are perhaps best addressed with a financial advisor who knows your circumstances and can help walk you through the economic consequences of pursuing a medical education at this time.

“To Be Honest, the Science and Medicine of COVID-19 Aren’t Interesting to Me.”

In general, all prospective med students should have some interest in the way basic science research affects clinical medicine. After all, medicine is ultimately a discipline based in empiricism and scientific inquiry.

But as research on the novel coronavirus rolls out, some premed students may be alarmed by their lack of interest in the subject. While you certainly do not have to become enamored by the intricacies of this virus and its potential treatment, it is prudent to examine whether your lack of interest indicates a wider disinterest in science.

Disinterest in one virus — no matter how newsworthy it is — should not deter you from pursuing medicine. But not being interested in the pharmacologic mechanisms of drugs, the workings of the immune system or how pathogens cause infection could indicate a general lack of interest in medicine.

If you are worried about lacking interest in COVID-19 or broader areas of medicine, speak to a premed adviser, physician mentor or medical student to help determine if your professional goals are truly aligned with a career in medicine.

More from U.S. News

How to Discuss Coronavirus in Medical School Admissions Essays

Coronavirus, Other Public Health Issues Key for Medical School Applicants

Volunteer Activities for Premed Students During Coronavirus Outbreak

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