Over on the Neurotransmitting blog, Dr. Joseph Andrews, a 4th year psychiatry resident, writes about Where Psychiatry Sits With Medical Students and What We Can Do About it.
He writes, in a good deal of detail, about the finances of it all and about why someone who has taken on a lot of debt to go to medical school might not be able to afford to become a psychiatrist. This isn't new -- I went to medical school knowing I wanted to be a psychiatrist, and there were medical schools I simply didn't apply to because I knew I would need to take on so much debt that my monthly payments would be more than I could afford on a resident's salary. Ah, those schools were kind enough to provide that information in blunt terms, I remember pamphlets that said that if you needed to take out a HEAL loan at the high interest of the day, then you could expect to pay back $1700/month. That assumed no college debt (which I already had) and at the time, residents made roughy $26,000/year. Those applications went into the trash.
Dr. Andrews also talks about the stigma of psychiatry -- his friend's family would be shamed if she went into psychiatry, and he talks about how there are other mental health professions for those interested in the field. It's a good post. And I'm here anyway, though in college I did plan to be a psychologist. I'm not sure what happened along the way, but suddenly psychiatry sounded better.
So I'm here to say it's still pretty good. I still like being a shrink, and people get better much more than they ever told me in medical school. I still talk to my patients and get to know them. At the end of most days, I feel appreciated. There is still a lot of variety to what psychiatrists can do -- research, teaching, brief contact practices (many many patients for brief med checks), or high contact practices (psychoanalysis, or less high contact with psychotherapy), administration, and blogging (warning: no pay). I don't ever wake up and wish I was a dermatologist.
So do check out Neurotransmitting -- it's one of very few blogs by a psychiatry resident and Dr. Andrews is just getting started.
Hey there, I've been a lurker for quite a while now. Love the blog, and thanks for this post. Stigma is definitely one of the main problems psychiatry faces attracting medical students. I hadn't thought about the economical aspect, but it's also very true. I'm a third year med student and so far I'm of the "psychiatry or bust" mindset....then again, I don't have much student debt so far (which is usually not the case). Ah, I could definitely go into something more competitive or more highly esteemed by society (like ophthalmology) but exploring hallucinations or delusions is way more interesting than asking about eye discharge on a daily basis. Just my two cents. Hopefully I'll be another one of those few psych residents with a blog in the near future.
I remember on Match Day when I got into the University of Michigan Psychiatry residency. I was so excited. I called my parents to tell them. Their response? "Ohhhh, and you spent all of that time in medical school!" (sigh)
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