Hello students, My name is John LeCluyse, and I am a fourth year medical student who just finished a month-long rotation working with Dr. Ellis in Tribune. I wanted to give you guys a write-up of some general information and advice about college and careers in healthcare. My background is that I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, went to the University of Notre Dame for undergrad, and will graduate from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in the spring. I plan on doing an Internal Medicine residency and then pursuing Cardiology as a career.
Some of you will continue onto college after you graduate from high school. I want to give you guys a few bits of advice that I wish I knew when I was in your position.
Picking a major
One of the most daunting aspects of starting college is that you have to pick a major, and you feel like you have to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life when you may have no idea. First of all, it is important to remember that it is easy, and common, to change your major early on in your college career. I chose my major by thinking about what I found interesting in high school. I knew I liked Math and Science but did not enjoy English or other subjects as much. I also realized that there were jobs in healthcare that I was interested in, so I decided become a “Science Pre-professional” major. I found this to be a good approach and would encourage you use a similar thought process. Think about what subjects interest you in school and you can see yourself studying for another 4 years. If you do have a specific career in mind, think about what major would prepare you the best for that job. And again, if you change your mind during your first couple semesters, do not be afraid to meet with an advisor and change your major.
College is one of the most fun times of your life. You are around thousands of people around your age, you finally get to study what you are interested in, and there are tons of opportunities to pursue extracurricular activities and social events. Because of all this, it is easy to get distracted and find yourself struggling to keep up with studying.
One big change that you will find in college compared to high school is that there are a lot less daily assignments that you have to do. This means that your final grade in college courses is often much more heavily weighted towards a few exams, and there is less accountability for keeping up with the material week to week. There is no worse feeling than realizing a couple of days before an exam that you do not know any of the material and have no chance of doing well.
My main advice is to study a little bit every day. You have probably been told this advice before and didn’t have to follow it and still did fine. However, in college there is a lot more information to consume and often a lot less assignments to hold you accountable for learning the material. Go through your notes from class and re-write, highlight, etc. within a couple days of lecture. This will help you retain the information in a matter of minutes and save you hours of frustration when the big test comes around a few weeks later. Also, if you find yourself struggling to understand concepts or doing poorly in a class, do not hesitate to contact the professor or teaching assistant and let them know. They will almost always be happy to work with you one on one and give you a study plan going forward.
Careers in Healthcare
There is a huge list of different careers you can pursue in healthcare. It is easy to look online and find out how much school is required, what the lifestyle is like, and what salary you can expect (I recommend explorehealthcareers.org). I want to give you my perspective as a medical student on what a few different health professions do that I didn’t fully understand until I was in medical school.
Nursing – This is a very hands-on job. You care directly for the patients. This means you give patients their medications, start their IVs, check their vital signs, etc. You can become a nurse in almost any medical field such as surgery, hospital medicine, labor and delivery, etc. This means there are lots of different lifestyle options.
EMT – Emergency Medical Technicians are on the front lines of medicine. These are the people who ride in ambulances and are first to the scene of emergencies and traumas. This is a good career for people who prefer a shorter amount of school and want a fast paced job.
Physician Assistant – Especially in smaller communities, physician assistants can work alongside doctors in clinics and the hospital. They can see patients on their own and prescribe medications. They work under the supervision of a doctor, who has a longer education, but have the autonomy to examine and treat patients.
Nurse practitioner – These individuals earned their bachelor’s degree in nursing and then have gotten a master’s degree or doctorate degree. They often work in a similar capacity to physician assistants. The main difference is that these individuals can diagnose and treat without the supervision of a doctor.
Doctor – I will talk the most about this, since it is what I am training to be. The path to becoming a doctor is long and involves a lot of studying and hard work. However, the journey as a whole is enjoyable as long as you truly enjoy learning, science, and working with other people. While in undergrad you must complete some core “pre-med” courses including Biology, General Chemistry, Organic chemistry, English and Physics. You take the MCAT around your junior year. The MCAT is a standardized test that you will use with your college resume to apply to medical school. Other important things that are considered when applying to medical school are your GPA, your extracurricular activities, and your volunteer work/ exposure to the healthcare field. Once accepted, medical school is 4 years. Generally the first 2 years involve studying via lectures and books. The latter 2 years of med school are mostly spent in the hospital rotating through different specialties, working with patients and physicians. After medical school, new doctors apply to residency programs. Medical residency generally lasts from 3-5 years. It involves working in your field of interest under the supervision of attending physicians, who are doctors who have completed their residency.
Although it has been a lot of work, I enjoyed being a pre-med major in undergrad and have enjoyed medical school. I have found it to be an interesting and rewarding career path so far.
If you have any specific questions about college, careers in health care, medical school or anything else feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to talk with you. I wish you all the best of luck in whatever you decide to pursue as a career.