Looking for advice on starting a Medical degree at 37.

(44 Posts)
MrsMeggles Mon 08-Aug-16 17:10:08

I'm looking for practical advice and support on starting a medical degree at 37 (36 now, 37 by the time I would hopefully start) with a two year old daughter. I am at the start of the application process so by no means have I got a place, but it is something that I have put a lot of thought to and I am really passionate about. I studied biology with Neuroscience honours as an undergrad and have lots of friends who are doctors, but this was in 2002 so they are a lot further down the path and studied as single carefree 20yr olds! I have worked in marketing and project management since my degree (to a senior level) however have not done anything science related. But since having my daughter I am just not satisfied through my work and have always harboured dreams to become a doctor. My rational thought process is that with 25+ years still left to work I would like to aim towards becoming a GP in 8-10 years time, with a good 15-20 years still to work as a GP. My husband works FT and we don't have family close by for childcare support. I am aware of fees and we think it would still be worth it bearing in mind the long term earning potential. Am I mad / delusional?

OP’s posts: |
lifeisunjust Mon 08-Aug-16 19:07:27

I met an American the other day who is studying for a medical degree at Medical University of Lublin. Fancy it? He said it was at a fraction of the cost, but it did leave me wondering how he talks to patients when he is on practice as his Polish was zero.

Not sure I could move over to Poland to do such a thing, but just something to inspire you.

MedSchoolRat Mon 08-Aug-16 19:27:11

I interview applicants to our MBBS programme.
Convenient thread for OP.
tbh, I think the older applicants may have an edge in interviews. Assuming they get an interview, which is the hardest part! There may be age limits, btw, to be accepted onto some courses. Look into that.

The advantage mature candidates have is because they have so much more world experience to draw on, in answering interview questions. A lot of our expectations have to be framed around what are the reasonable things to expect of even the most talented 17-18yo. But they are barely adults, iyswim.

NHS is desperate for GPs, so definitely no shortage of opportunities smile.

Decorhate Mon 08-Aug-16 21:54:08

You will need to factor in full-time childcare costs and the fact it's extremely unlikely you will be able to earn much while studying. I think clinical placements are generally during the daytime until you get to F1 & F2. I don't know if it's possible to do F1 & F2 in a GP surgery. As far as I know you may not have a lot of say in where you do F1 & 2. You'd need to check if you can specify your local area.

Are you likely to have more children? That would increase childcare costs/your ability to study in the evening, etc. All things to think about.

My dd has just finished her first year & says there are a lot of mature students so it's not uncommon, just a question of practicalities I would say.

Is there an option of moving back to where your families live while you are studying?

microscope Tue 09-Aug-16 22:12:37

Don't do it
Don't do it
Don't do it
Don't do it
Don't do it
Don't do it
Don't do it
Don't do it
Don't do it
Don't do it


I'm a GP. The NHS is going to pot - junior doctors are up for a huge pay cut and if you join any of the junior doctor facebook forums you will see posts from a week or so before they started their jobs saying that they don't have a rota, don't know if the leave they have requested will be honoured, don't know if they are starting on days or nights etc etc. A rotation can require you to move between any hospital in a whole county. The NHS is an unbelievably crappy employer - I was refused annual leave for my own wedding.

With your background I would do nursing then train as a clinical nurse specialist and go for a CNS role in epilepsy, MS, Parkinson's or something else neurological. Shorter training, probably a more satisfying job.

do not do medicine at 37 with a young child (just in case I wasn't clear.....)

user1455735029 Tue 09-Aug-16 22:39:16

I agree - don't do it! I am a consultant surgeon appointed in 1997, but it's true the NHS has changed dramatically as has medical training in the past 20 years. The junior doctor training system now is awful, you have almost no control over shifts and will be expected to move to work in different cities at short notice. After graduating you will need to do a minimum of 5 years post grad training in different specialties. If you take mat leave during your training that will extend your total training time. Your working hours will leave you so exhausted you will have no time for your children. The new contract if imposed or accepted in England may leave you working a significant number of weekends. You will probably be given allocated holiday time which may not be during school holidays. You start off thinking you will do a useful job and help people, and I had my children after I was appointed a consultant, which is easier but means I was a very old mother! Finally you may not be able to build up a reasonable pension since you will start working quite late. I agree with the previous poster, find a paramedical specialty and work your way to the top of it, more rewarding with less misery along the way.

user1455735029 Tue 09-Aug-16 22:40:07

Sorry missed a bit in the middle! You start off


user1455735029 Tue 09-Aug-16 22:42:08

You start off thinking you will help people but actually spent a lot of time with constipated geriatrics too demented to know what's wrong with them and self abusers wanting to be stitched up and sent out to drink or take drugs again. I would not do medicine again if I was starting out.
Hope that helps grin

PurpleDaisies Tue 09-Aug-16 22:48:06

I did medicine as a graduate. I loved the degree. The job is absolutely awful if you want to have any life outside the job for all the reasons outlined by the doctors above.

I left and did something else, as have many others. A third of my year emigrated permanently to Australia or New Zealand. The job is absolutely not what you'd expect it to be. It is amazing that intelligent, hard working, caring people are treated so badly.

Don't do it.

DentalPrep Wed 10-Aug-16 15:06:30


I studying at university. Im only 20, though I have 3 really good friends who are studying Dentistry with in their 30-40s.

One has 5 kids! I don't know how he does it! But he does!
Having said that, my other friend with 3 kids doe find it hard, though she manages.

So its not impossible, but seek advice from current students.


PurpleDaisies Wed 10-Aug-16 16:49:57

So its not impossible, but seek advice from current students.

The studying is the easy part. You'd be much better talking to current f1s/f2s/SHOs.

MrsMeggles Wed 10-Aug-16 17:52:27

Thanks everyone. Really useful to hear everyone's thoughts and the realities of the job. I have several friends who are doctors and my sister is a GP herself so I am not immune to the stresses, drudgery, hours, rota's (and inflexibilty involved in the F1, F2, training contract set up (my sister left the Uk to do her F2 in NZ and is now a qualified GP and Rural Hospital consultant and she is really pro me doing this so very useful to hear other peoples opinions of medicine int he Uk and long term prognosis...

OP’s posts: |
miniswin Wed 10-Aug-16 18:04:43

Just here to jump on the DON'T DO IT bandwagon.... I'm also a doctor, I'm the other end of the scale at the moment having just finished a year's locum work post-foundation programme (so three years qualified now) and at the stage now where I should be entering speciality training. I was the most enthusiastic of students and adored my degree, generally consider myself to be caring, level-headed, empathetic etc and I know I'm good at what I do..... And I'm leaving the profession (at least for the moment) to have a baby and take a long hard look at what I want to do long term - most likely NOT anything in clinical medicine. Read some of the coverage of the current junior doctors debacle written from the perspective of a junior doc, imagine what it would be like, and then multiply that by 10 and that may give you some idea of just how horrendous things can be. Please don't be altruistic in this decision. For the sake of your family and your sanity DO NOT do a medical degree.

MedSchoolRat Thu 11-Aug-16 12:47:57

Gosh, MNers are so unrelentingly negative. sad

Do need to go in with realistic expectations.
What you lack in youthful naïve enthusiasm & energy, you can probably make up for in buckets of emotional resilience.
I'm still not sure about the entry req. age cut offs, and it's still very very hard to get in even with the best qualifications, so good to have a few back up plans for other related careers. Best of luck. x

PurpleDaisies Thu 11-Aug-16 12:59:12

Gosh, MNers are so unrelentingly negative.
Are you a doctor in the uk?

ImperialBlether Thu 11-Aug-16 13:02:38

They're not being negative. They're telling her of their own experiences.

JockMonsieur Thu 11-Aug-16 13:07:43

am not a doctor, but work alongside them

from what I see, it's very hard to combine the FY and CT years with childcare, as you have very, very little control over when and where you'll be working on any given day, often down to being told when your annual leave is rota-ed. the people who manage it tend to have a partner or other family member taking up all the slack.

CaptainWarbeck Thu 11-Aug-16 13:29:00

Do it if you're prepared to put your job above everything else - partner, children etc. It is near impossible to get a decent work life balance in the early years if you are not single and childless. Talking from experience, have left medicine. Degree is fascinating, job is crap. Would not do in your situation. There are plenty of other good jobs that offer much more. Don't get sucked into the glamour of medicine, the reality is very hard work for often little reward.

CaptainWarbeck Thu 11-Aug-16 13:33:39

Your best bet is to try to get some work experience with current FY1s/FY2s etc to see then if you're still keen after seeing the day to day work and their thoughts. With a husband who works FT and no family support to be honest I think it would be a struggle without something giving.

microscope Thu 11-Aug-16 15:36:30

Gosh, MNers are so unrelentingly negative realistic and helpful

fixed that for you grin

MacaroonsAllDayLong Thu 11-Aug-16 20:48:00

Hmm.... I don't think you are either mad or delusional, but as others have said you would need to go into this with eyes wide open to the sacrifices you (and your family) would be making.

The first part, the 5 years of medical school, would be expensive but utterly do-able - you'd have the motivation and maturity and would likely sail through. You'd get weekends, holidays and no nights.

Then you'd hit F1. You'd apply for this via a national application scheme, so could end up anywhere. And even if you are super-duper and score incredible well, the reality is you would still be applying to a deanery, which can be a massive area, rather than a specific hospital. Then, depending on the deanery, you could be sent to 3 hospitals miles and miles away from each other in your F1 year. And then maybe another 3 hospitals in your F2 year. And each time you moved you'd probably get your rota a week, or maybe 2, before you start. And should you try and get it earlier as you need to plan childcare, you may be accused of being 'unprofessional' and 'expecting special treatment because you have children'. Once you do have the rota, you may discover that you are working 1 weekend in 4, doing nights for a period every month, and routinely doing shifts that finish at 8 or 9pm with the odd 'compensatory' day off, meaning you'd need to have a robust childcare plan.

Once you are through F1 and F2 you'd want to apply for GP training. At this point life would likely get (slightly) better: GP training is 3 years long, and 1.5 years of that is likely to be in GPland, meaning more predictable (although still long) working patterns. However, 6 months of it may be in A&E, working 2 weekends in 3 and having approximately 3.2 days of normal shifts in the entire 6 months. Plus you need to fit revising for your postgraduate exams around working. And find the over £2000 these exams cost.

Then you'd be a GP. Which is tough, but in the area I'm in a salaried session (=half a day a week for a year) pays around £8000, and I know many GPs who are mums who are salaried and do 6 sessions a week = £48000 for 3 days work - but these days are often 8am til 8pm .

This has ended up being rather long but in summary, the med school bit (when your daughter would be 2 to 7) would be fine, but then the junior doctor bit (when your daughter would be 7 to 12) would be very challenging and not well renumerated, and in fact could end up costing you money once childcare is taken into account. Then GP-dom could be relatively well paid and rewarding and give a better work life balance.

Disclaimers: mum of 2 small people, current hospital doctor, only did GP for 4 months as an F2 many years ago.

HPFA Fri 12-Aug-16 21:51:05

Was interested in comments about working as a CNS. My partner had a stoma for 18 months and was under the care of a CNS. He was incredibly helpful and knowledgable. He appeared to have the time to form relationships with his patients. Of course I don't know what life would be like from the other side but I could definitely see how it could be a very stimulating and rewarding job.

ramshacklerose Fri 19-Aug-16 15:59:16

Hey OP. I'm starting a graduate medical degree this year, when I'll be 36. No kids, but would like some. Have a friend who will be starting next year, who's a few years older than me and has 2 kids. I made similar judgements to you about the likely length of my working life, and what would keep me satisfied and interested in the long term.

Obviously I don't have experience of doing the job like some posters, but I know plenty of doctors who've managed the student years/Foundation Years/speciality training etc at various stages of parenting. And the thing about a medical degree is that it can take you down lots of different routes. A few people have said to me just how important a supportive partner is if you're going to go down this track, and I'm lucky enough to have one.

I'm expecting it to be bloody difficult, but would obviously recommend you go for it too, if it's what you really want. I may be forced to eat my words, but for now I'm really looking forward to getting started!

hobobulate Fri 19-Aug-16 20:42:58

sorry, but another in the don't do it camp! I am a doctor. long since finished all training grades. I also had young dc when doing all the junior doctor bit. It was horrendous. I would not recommend it. And from what i can see it is only get worse for juniors going forward with the new contract etc...The GP trainess I work with(when they do placements in my specialty) all work really, really hard. They have often done posts such as paediatrics, obs and gynae etc which have horrendous shift patterns to combine with family life.They move posts every 6 months and have little say over where they're placed, meaning some have to travel long distances to their placements. And then they are all still studying for post grad exams. I really feel sorry for the ones with dc.Then they do their GP bit which always sounds really long days and a struggle to juggle with childcare.
I do actually enjoy the job I do now (not gp) but I am very, very lucky in the job I am currently in, it is quite unique and it has taken me 20 years to get to this point!
If I could go back and do things again I would NOT do medicine.

saywhatyousee Sat 20-Aug-16 22:30:32

I started my medical degree a couple of years ago aged 30 and am about to start third year next month. I also have children so will offer my thoughts on my experiences so far and what you can perhaps expect.

I also have a medically related degree and found the content of the first two years of medicine no harder than my previous course. I go to a PBL uni and to be honest (most of the time) PBL is an absolute pain. Hours and hours are spent researching topics and it takes a fair while to realise how much depth is required. I am lucky that I too have a partner but also have family close by who help out with childcare and to be honest, without this, I don't know how I'd cope. Exam time is a nightmare- exams in my med school aren't modular so expect to learn everything covered in the year in one go. Having said that, I passed comfortably so it can be done.

In terms of the practicalities after graduating, you may be eligible to apply for pre-allocation to foundation school if you care for children under 18. This means that as long as you meet the minimum criteria for a certain deanery, you can choose to stay local to your area for at least the first year of training and possibly F2. And apparently, foundation training can also be done part time.

So far I haven't regretted doing medicine, but judging from the previous comments, there is a strong chance I will in the future!

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in