From time-to-time, I receive inquiries from registered nurses about going to medical school to obtain more training, more autonomy, and more options in the future very different from what a nursing pathway can offer. Having been on admissions committees during medical school and as a chief resident, I’m asked for advice regarding this transition and whether-or-not it’s discouraged to come from a nursing background.
During my first week of medical school, I got to know my classmates at orientation. They ranged from students right out of college like me (early 20s) to individuals who practically had ever degree EXCEPT for medical training (people in their 40s and even 50s). Some of us were single, others in relationships, and others married with children. Although many came from science backgrounds, quite a few also studied disciplines ranging from music and theater to politics and foreign languages. Some were athletes. Others were entrepreneurs. A handful were even in healthcare before starting medical school paramedics, laboratory technicians, etc. I always admired those who had real insight about healthcare before beginning medical school as they had an implicit understanding of how hospitals function.
When I had the opportunity to serve on the medical school admissions committee, it was this insight I tried to ascertain from the applicants. To receive a medical school interview, one must meet some arbitrary “minimum cutoff” with regards to their MCAT, GPA, and paper application. I wanted to see how one’s shadowing opportunities, clinical research, medical mission trips abroad, or some other experience(s) cultivated their understanding of what healthcare actually entails.
Although I never personally interviewed applicants who were former nurses, I can’t help but think that these people really know healthcare. They know the ins and outs of a hospital system. They have training and insight about clinical care. They have a bedside manner that is refined as part of their job. These applicants have also seen the privileges and capabilities of various disciplines in the hospitals. For them to want to shift to the medical route (with a significant sacrifice of additional time and money), well, it says a lot to me.
Understandably, I’m biased in favor of the physician path, and I will fully support these individuals in their endeavors. I just want them to realize that medical school is not nursing school. Yes, there might be some overlap, but there’s a tremendous depth of knowledge one must learn, an even greater amount of money that must be spent (tuition, countless exams, certifications, etc.). However, going through the med school process provides you with arguably the absolute best training to be a decision maker with all the privileges and responsibilities that come with that.
In short, I think coming from a nursing background will only help your application as a prospective medical school applicant. Use your training and what you’ve learned as the cornerstone for why you want to transition to becoming a physician, and may your current career make you that much more understanding of the importance of patient-centered, team-based care.