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Information for people contemplating
a career in emergency medicine and
other medical specialties

By Kevin Pezzi, MD


M.D. degrees don't confer self-confidence

Q: Will becoming a doctor improve my self-confidence?

Answer by , MD: Not necessarily; it may actually erode it. I'll give an example. A pediatrician I knew brought his children to see me in the ER when he couldn't diagnose them with certainty. I understood his motivation, because no parent—M.D. or not—wants to shoulder the responsibility for tough decisions. What if he were wrong? The consequences, and guilt from it, could be catastrophic. Thus I understand and agree with his actions.

But put yourself in my shoes for a minute: you're an ER doc, not a pediatrician, given pediatric cases that a smart pediatrician couldn't solve. And I'm going to be so confident that I'll magically find diagnostic clues he missed? Mmm, maybe, but not likely. Pediatricians are generally better at pediatrics than ER doctors. Duh.

Mastery is a great way to improve self-confidence, but I've yet to find or hear of an ER doctor with such mastery that he couldn't benefit patients more by improving. Wise physicians know they're never good enough, which keeps them on their toes, perpetually striving to learn more and perform better. But no matter how much they learn, they can never know enough; there is too much to learn for any one doctor to know it all, let alone master it.

In contrast, people in other, less challenging professions can often indeed master them. Hence, if maximizing self-confidence is your goal, choose a profession that can be mastered. That's not emergency medicine.

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