Simply put, becoming a physician takes an extraordinary amount of hard work, dedication and sometimes a sense of calling that may have started at a young age. The physician is a vital member of the healthcare team. Their work allows for the care of the most vulnerable people—the patients. When asked, “Why am I a physician?” responses typically include:
I am a lifelong learner—as a physician I am always expanding my knowledge
I am intrigued by the way medicine can be used to improve one’s life
The variety—in the patients I see and in my schedule
I have an intellectual curiosity about medicine
I am amazed by biology and anatomy
I enjoy a challenge and love to figure things out (diagnosing)
I want to help people
I wish to understand how disease affects the body
I had a good relationship with a physician who influenced me
The income is well above average
I realize that my knowledge could save someone’s life
Internet Research: Like nurses and pharmacists, physicians take an oath upon graduation. There are several versions of the physician’s oath. Research the modern Hippocratic Oath written by Dr. Louis Lasagna. List the five most meaningful statements to you.
Internet Research: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in what type of work environment can a physician expect to work?
Internet Research: What is the job outlook for physicians?
The Journey to Becoming a Physician
The journey to becoming a physician is challenging, yet rewarding. Most physicians complete at least four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and, depending on their specialty, three to eight years in internship and residency programs.
Most medical school applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree and many have advanced degrees. Although no specific major is required, all students must complete undergraduate work in the following areas:
Chemistry, along with laboratory courses
Organic Chemistry, along with laboratory courses
Biology, along with laboratory courses
Physics, along with laboratory courses
Calculus or other advanced math classes, such as Statistics
Medical schools are highly competitive. Most applicants must submit transcripts, scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and letters of recommendation. Schools also consider an applicant’s personality, leadership qualities and participation in extracurricular activities. Most schools require applicants to interview with members of the admissions committee. A few medical schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that last six or seven years.
Students spend most of the first two years of medical school in laboratories and classrooms gaining practical skills by learning to take medical histories, examining patients, diagnosing illnesses and taking courses such as:
During their last two years, medical students work with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians in hospitals and clinics. Through rotations in internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry and surgery, they gain experience in diagnosing and treating illnesses in a variety of areas.
After medical school, they become a resident for three to eight years and learn all aspects of patient care while preparing for practice in a medical specialty. After residency, they may became board certified in a specialty, which involves a rigorous process of testing and peer evaluation that is designed and administered by specialists in their specific area of medicine.
Internet Research: Research a local college/university/school with a program to become a physician. Provide the following information:
Entrance requirements (GPA, MCAT score, essays)
Tuition costs (per credit hour or per semester)
Length of program/degree
Courses/classes required to graduate
Internet Research: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, what is the current median pay of a physician?
The Responsibilities of a Physician
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physicians diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. They examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications and order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene and preventive healthcare.
Physicians are typically responsible for the following:
Taking a patient’s medical history
Updating charts and patient information to show current findings and treatments
Ordering tests for nurses or other healthcare staff to perform
Reviewing test results to identify any abnormal findings
Recommending and designing a plan of treatment
Addressing concerns or answering questions patients have about their health and well-being
Helping patients take care of their health by discussing topics such as proper nutrition and hygiene
On Your Own: Using the list above, identify which responsibilities benefit the patient and which responsibilities benefit other members of the healthcare team.
Human Genetics: The study of the genetic aspects of humans as a species.
(“Human Genetics.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2014.)
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): A standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee’s problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine. Scores are reported in Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Biological Sciences.
(“About the MCAT Exam. Association of American Medical Colleges. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.)
Biochemistry: The science dealing with the chemistry of living matter.
(“Biochemistry.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014.)
Physiology: The branch of biology dealing with the functions and activities of living organisms and their parts, including all physical and chemical processes.
(“Physiology.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014.)
Pharmacology: The science dealing with the preparation, uses, and especially the effects of drugs.
(“Pharmacology. Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014.)
Microbiology: The branch of biology dealing with the structure, function, uses, and modes of existence of microscopic organisms.
(“Microbiology.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014.)
Pathology: The science or the study of the origin, nature, and course of diseases.
(“Pathology.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014.)