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How hard is medical school?

It’s not easy, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. Once upon a time, you were going to college for four years, and then you went straight into medical school and started practicing. Nowadays, you go to college for four years, then you go to medical school for four years, then you go to a residency for three to seven years, depending on your field, and then you go work for three years. You are trained for a long time.

How many hours do you work a week?

Medical school is hard work, and it’s not for the faint of heart. The first year is a lot of memorization, a lot of studying, and a lot of tests. You’re not seeing patients, so you don’t really get a sense of how hard it is to treat people until the second year. Then you start seeing patients, and you realize what a life-altering decision this is. It’s a life-changing job, and it’s a lot of hard work.

Do you get to take a break?

You are in school for eight or nine months out of the year, and you have three months off in the summer, but that’s not really a break. You’re on call. I’m on call 24/7. It’s not a vacation. You’re there to help in any way you can.

What’s the time commitment for your residency?

I work 80 hours a week. I get assigned to a different floor every month. I get a call one month and it will be, “Get to the emergency room right now. The patient you’re going to be taking care of just walked in.” I have to drop everything I’m doing and go to the emergency room. You have to be ready at all times for the emergency room. It’s not like you have a set schedule.

How much do you make as a resident?

I make between $50,000 and $60,000 a year. I’m single, and I live at home, so I don’t pay rent. I have a car, but my parents let me use it. I pay my own car insurance, but I don’t have a lot of extra money to spend. I’m saving up for a house.

Will you be able to pay back your student loans?

I will be able to pay them back. I’m going to be a pediatric emergency room doctor, so I don’t make a lot of money right now, but I will be able to pay them back. I’m not going to be able to go on vacation or buy a boat or anything like that for a long time.

How much do you owe?

About $90,000.

How long do you have to pay your loans back?

Thirty years.

What’s your advice for students who are struggling with their loans?

I would say to them, “Try to get as much money as you can. Apply to every scholarship, almost every grant, and try to get as much financial aid as you can.”

What’s the matching process like?

It’s not easy. It’s very competitive, I would say. You have to write an essay, and you have to write your resume. You have to explain why you deserve to be in the residency program. You have to write a letter to the residency director explaining why you would be a good resident. It’s really hard. You have to apply to a bunch of different programs and do a lot of interviews over the course of a few months. The number of people who apply to a program is much higher than the number of spots it has available.

What’s the food like on the job?

It’s not bad. I eat in the cafeteria with the rest of the residents, and they provide us with three meals a day. It’s not the greatest, but it’s not terrible either.

What’s the worst part of the job?

The worst part of the job is the fact that you are always on call. You’re always on call in the emergency room. You get a pager or a cell phone that goes off at all hours of the night, and you have to get up to see what’s wrong. You can’t tell the patient, “Call me back.” You have to see what’s wrong.

What’s the best part of the job?

The best part of the job is that you’re helping people. You’re helping people in a significant way. You’re making a difference in their life, and that’s really rewarding.

What is your goal?

My goal is to have a family. I want to have kids, and I want to buy a house. There’s going to be a lot of sacrifices that I’m going to make, but I’m willing to do that.