Can a schizophrenic become a doctor?

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17 this year, and I have interest in pursuing medicine after I clear my national exams. Say if I can manage my symptoms well with an exception of a few relapses and do well in my national exams in the next three years, would this illness in any way, hinder me from getting into a medical school?

This question was originally posted on Quora, which was answered by Susan Winslow, 25 years Certified Psychiatric Nurse 

Yes, a person with schizophrenia can become a doctor and people have. However it is challenging and I will tell you why. Simply put, inordinate amounts of stress bring on relapses. With each relapse a person with schizophrenia has they increase their liklihood of having another relapse ( it is the same with cancer) . With each relaspse a person suffers the more damage is done to the brain in the areas of higher executive functioning ( in the prefontal cortex). This is the area of the brain required to study, train and actually practice as a doctor.

As a nurse who has spent the majority of my career in a teaching medical center and have worked side be side medical students, residents, and attending physicians this is one of most stressful professions I can think of entering. It is not only stressful on your mind it is also stressful on your body , on your family life and on you emotionally. I could go on and on but since I don’t have the space to do that I would suggest through your school , you ask to shadow a doctor at a local hospital or in your local emergency room, just to see what a “ day in the life “ is like.

That will give you an idea of how busy they can be, how often they need to switch gears, deal with emergencies, give extremely sad news to family members, listen to people who don’t agree with what you have told them, get yelled at, keep up with documentation, put off going to the restroom, are expected to know everything, perform miracles and have all the time in the world for each patient, maybe get 15 minutes for lunch, have memories like steel traps, and treat every one with respect, concern and dignity and chances are you are doing this on very little sleep.

I am not trying to discourage you . This is real life as a doctor. Being a resident is even harder because you are trying to proove yourself in order to become a doctor. With the illness of schizophrenia I would think long and hard and do lots of first hand work to see if you could actually see yourself doing the job and managing the illness. Your illness requires little to no stress, at least 7–8 hrs of sleep per night, three well balanced meals per day, adequate amounts of exercise to move your bigger muscle groups, time spent at rest, a very good support network, and fun activities.

I myself can think of other careers that involve medicine that wouldn’t jeopardize your health for instance nursing, nurse practitioner, many areas of research, medical ethics, medical law, medical IT ( the fatest growing career right now) etc.

Give it some thought, so many careers but your health is your top priority ! My Best.

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