One of the most important things to remember is like anything in life, working towards these degrees, career, and/or calling IS A PROCESS. Engrave that into your memory. Incorporate it into your daily mantra. Place it on a notecard on the fridge. Just know it, know it, know it!

So here are some common questions and thoughts (and questions/thoughts that I had) that many encounter when deciding what they want to: Should I be a nurse or a doctor?!


“Does it matter which courses I take? Can I take nursing classes and then change to classes required for medical school or are they completely different?”

Nursing, like medicine, has prerequisites before you can get into the classes that are required specifically for the program. So it does make a difference which classes you choose but that being said, it is possible to change your mind after taking the classes (i.e. changing from nursing to a science (for medicine) or from science/medicine to nursing).


“Maybe I can prepare for both!”

When I spoke with a nursing advisor I asked her something among the lines of if it was possible to take the required courses for both nursing and medicine and she gave me this look like I was crazy and said, "Yes...but people normally decide to take one."

Then when I started to take the classes I saw why she gave me that crazy face with regards to taking the courses for both. Most people normally do decide on one; it's a lot of work!


“Well, I can always change my mind right?”

Right. You can pick one and if you so choose you can change your mind (but not every day!). Say you decide on nursing. Good. Take courses for it and go on with it. But if you change your mind and decide on being a pediatrician that's good too (or if you decide on being a pediatrician and then decide nursing or art or whatever).

But keep in mind that with a change in mind comes a change in other expectations and calculations as well…


“There’s a big difference in the time and financial commitment for becoming a nurse or a doctor, isn’t there?”

Yes; unfortunately this is true. And this difference is even more magnified and augmented when you are already in precarious financial and economic circumstances and when you spend a lot of time deciding and debating what it is that you want to do with your life. This is where it helps to know what you want to do earlier on for time, effort, and commitment purposes (but early decisions are not always final ones).

In addition, the time, financial, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual commitment for either of these careers should not be underestimated. Regardless of which of these you choose (or even other career paths for that matter), your commitment and endurance in each and at times in all of these areas will be perpetually tested. This is from conception (i.e. the realization of the dream/career-job choice/calling/decision/etc.) to fruition (i.e. being a nurse/doctor, working with patients, doing your job/career/calling/etc.), and any other financial, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual commitments you have along the way (family, significant others, setbacks, work, crises, health problems, unforeseen circumstances, etc.) require commitment and endurance as well.

Time and financial commitment (as well as emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual commitment) are often the reasons why people stay away from or “drop out of” one or either of these choices.


“But I want to have a family.”

Chances are if you’re having this dilemma you’re not alone—and you’re not a man. Very rarely, if ever, will you hear a man talking about how he is having a tough time deciding whether or not to be a doctor or a nurse because he wants a family. For lack of interest, motivation, financial means, commitment, or desire—yes; for want of a family—no.

It isn’t fair and unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) women have to take certain factors into consideration. Biology, emotional, mental, physical, financial, and spiritual investment and commitment, want of a family, demands of pre-medical coursework and medical coursework, demands of the medical profession, etc. For better or for worse, women have to invest more both in the short and long run for both their career and their personal aspirations.

While I cannot make the decision of career vs. family for you I can relay the following:

-It doesn’t always have to be a choice so much as a postponement or modification (modification can include anything from how you pursue your career path to what approach to parenting you take)

-Do not base your decision upon a biological or romantic clock; basing your plans around this isn’t foolproof and can lead to utter disappointment, especially if you forego your dreams and desires on the basis of two components (i.e. you don’t always fall in love when you plan, relationship longevity isn’t guaranteed, having kids by the time you envision doesn’t mean happiness at that exact time, even good relationships present challenges, constraints, and demands, etc.). Even if romance and biology are your two primary dreams and desires, pursuing them are not foolproof, you still need a job/goals/plans/etc., and those pursuits (and putting your other pursuits on the backburner) require realistic expectations about both what you are getting and taking on, and what you are letting go.


“What to do? What to do?”

Decide! Eventually it must be done.

You have to decide on one to get your classes taken care of. Otherwise it is a lot of time and money (more than what it already is). You have to take the time to assess what you want, what is important to you, what you're willing to give of yourself (time, energy, sacrifices, money, getting tutored, social life, personal life, etc.), what you're willing to give up, and how long you're willing to make the commitment to it. Once you have an idea of those things (and these can change sometimes) that should help you decide.


A real-life example of deciding on the “Should I be a nurse or a doctor?” question:

I had decided on nursing. I knew it was what I wanted to do. I knew where I was going and what I wanted from it.

When I was going for nursing I was pretty set to graduate in 3.5-4 years. I was going to work for two years and then go back and get my Master's in to be a nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant. I would have gone straight through to get my Master’s Degree if it weren’t for the fact that getting a Master’s Degree in either nursing or to be a physician’s assistant requires about two years of experience before getting the job (at least for the nursing; I didn’t research all the different physician assistant programs at the time).

Towards the end of my freshman year in college I eventually changed to medicine. So now I will be in school for the rest of my life. OK so not the rest of my life but the next 10 years are accounted for.

For both nursing and medicine I had to decide what I wanted, how long I was committed for, what I was willing to give/not give, and what I wanted to do. There were also many mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial assessments. Those assessments don’t end once you have made your decision. Making these assessments and making modifications as necessary is part of a healthy program and life pursuit. You will have to (at some point) do this for whatever you decide on.

Good luck and I wish you the best in making the decision that is right for you.