So You Want to Become a Doctor (or a Nurse)?

So you or someone you know would like to be a doctor (or a nurse)?  Great!  The world needs more Christians, compassionate about being part of Jesus’ healing ministry. It also takes a special gift to have the desire, knowledge, and ability to effectively address the physical needs of your patients, without neglecting their spiritual needs.  At the same time, it is important to recognize that there is a personal cost to pursuing such an endeavor.  

What I hope to address in this article is first, what I believe to be the essential characteristics of anyone endeavoring to enter a medical career field.  Then I hope to shed light on some of the lesser known, yet important considerations and factors that people don’t think about when looking into this occupation.  Finally, I’ll have some suggestions and conclusions to help young folks make some big decisions. 

Qualifications - the Three Legged Stool

The following qualifications are, in my experience, the essential qualities of a Christian that would like to enter the medical field.  All three qualities are essential, and like a 3 legged stool, the absence of any one, leads to an unstable situation, resulting in an entirely predictable crash.

  1. Compassion

Jesus said, “…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Mt 25:40)  As I mentioned in previous articles, “compassion” is the joining of “com” meaning together, and “passion” meaning to suffer (as in “The Passion of Christ”).  In essence, it is the ability of one to join in suffering with another, to help bear their burden, for the sake of love.  Galatians 6:2 also reflects this sentiment:  “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”  This quality is essential:  if one does not love people, it is best to find another calling.

Clearly, a medical practitioner without compassion is not a good health care provider, and it does not take someone to have a poor experience with such a professional with an undesirable bedside manner to see this.  The atrocities of NAZI physicians, such as Dr. Josef Mengele make this plain to see.  The fact that most among us were brought up in a Plain and Christian setting, should give us no solace.  It is well documented, that Anabaptists in Germany of this time period quickly abandoned the Biblical another such principle - the principle of non-resistance, in the face of adversity.  As early as the June 1934 edition of the Mennonitische Blätter, military nonresistance was officially erased from the Mennonite confession.  This is the 1 extreme (or “ditch”) to fall into, without a good sense of Biblical compassion.

The other “ditch” is too much compassion.  How is this possible?  It is by the desire to end the suffering, at any cost, even if it violates the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” (Ex 20:13).  Though this topic deserves its own article, Assisted Suicide is legal in 9 states and the District of Columbia.  The “Assisted” part usually entails a physician or nurse administering lethal medicines.  If trends continue, following libertarian and Anti-Christian waves of sentiment in the nation (and world), as seen also in trends of drug legalizations, these laws will soon cover the entire nation.  If these trends in Europe are any indication of our future (they have had a longer history of assisted suicide and euthanasia), practitioners will not have the option of declining this “service”, or at least will be “responsible” for finding another doctor to do so.  The medical skills of alleviating suffering, without causing death, are not easily learned, and are quickly forgotten.  The result is medical professionals not only unwilling, but unable to ameliorate the pain involved in the aging and dying processes. 

It is telling that both ditches result in the same outcome: death.  It is no coincidence, then that God calls us to the opposite: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” (Deu 30:19).

  1. Steadfastness in the Faith

The next vital component that every medical professional needs is having a firm foundation in their faith of the True and Living God.  I have seen too many young Christians, while being compassionate and sincere in their desire to help their fellow man, fall from their faith.  While there are many Christian professors in medical and nursing schools, in the political climate, they are vastly outnumbered by agnostic and atheistic professors - too many of which take pride in dissuading Christians from their convictions.  

There are many examples I could give, bu the one that stands out in my mind (after 25 years) was the requirement that all medical students learn to “understand” ALL their patients, including homosexual patients.  The “required material” included watching homosexual pornography with a soundtrack of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  I was the only student that stood up and walked out.  There were quite a few Christian students that heeded the professors stern warning that one can not judge that which one does not know.  My view was more in line with that of Joseph Egypt: he did not need to experience debauchery up close and personal, before he knew it was wrong, and that it was time to escape (Gen 39).  The Christians that remained became ever more desensitized to the way of the world.  I believe it was to the detriment of their spiritual walk at a minimum, and a loss of their faith at the worst.  

Twenty five years later, if anything, it has become even more challenging.  For example, it is undeniable that there exists a rapidly growing trend in the world toward mandatory affirmation of alternate/unbiblical lifestyles.  One brother I knew in the Beachy church, whose daughter studied to become a social worker, stated that while she was still a Christian, her “Joy in the Lord” was gone.

My experiences are not unique, though there may be other schools more Christian friendly (yet these schools may be more dangerous, since they can lure believers away in a more subtle manner).  However, strong Biblical discernment and steadfastness is still needed to deal with unanticipated moral landmines.  

While there are simple, God affirming answers to these questions, here is a smattering of just a very few dilemmas Christians contemplating a path into the medical and nursing fields must face.  There are straight forward Biblical answers, but the concepts must be conveyed to Biblically illiterate patients, colleagues, and supervisors in a simple manner that they can understand and respect.  Some of these patients consciously reject Biblical Truths, and a Christian doctor or nurse must be able to explain why they can not participate in an objectionable procedure or "treatment" in terms of both Biblical and empirical (Natural Law) evidence.  I will let you ponder the answers to these questions, and will not provide the answers - they each deserve their own articles:

  • Research has shown that corporal punishment (spanking) is detrimental, producing angry children, who in turn become more violent.  Why shouldn’t it be outlawed (and discouraged by medical professionals)?  (Hint:  Is all research of the same quality?  Also, definitions are important: is child beating regarded in the same manner as loving correction in the eyes of the researcher gathering data?), Prv 13, 22, 23 etc.
  • If a person’s quality of life is very poor, and they don’t want to go on, it is wrong to let them suffer.  Why shouldn’t we put them out of their misery in as gentle a way as possible?  (Hint:  What is the purpose of our lives?  Do the dying still have a role?  What is that role?), Ex 20:13, Phil 1:21, etc.
  • Young people are going to “do it anyway” (being promiscuous).  Why not protect them from disease by teaching them to fornicate with the appropriate “safely” precautions, and give them birth control to avoid children they are incapable of caring for?  (Hint:  Is it true that young people can’t meet a higher expectation?  Who is really in control?  Don’t we actually corrupt youth by doing so?), Eph 3:20, Acts 5:29, Luke 17:2, etc.

If you are struggling with finding both Biblical and Natural Law answers to these questions, then imagine how much more of a struggle a young and inexperienced Christian would have, often having to think on the fly, if you multiply these dilemmas ten or an hundredfold.  

Furthermore, just as no soldier would go into minefield unprepared to find and defuse mines that could destroy him in an instant, no Christian should go into training without a complete “toolbox” of Biblical knowledge and discernment - and a basic set of what Peter calls ready answers:  “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”  (1 Peter 3:15)

In summary, are you willing to:

    • Flee from evil (even if it will cost you your career (or more) - read about Joseph in Gen 39)   
    • Stand alone (even if you’re not alone - read about Elijah in 1 Kings 18).
    • Stand for Righteousness - are you willing to speak and stand up and defend the faith - when all manner of lies are told? (consider the example Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3)  Remember that “silence is consent.”

If you can do all the above, then maybe you are ready for medical or nursing school.  

But here is one final consideration of the firmness of one’s foundations, and it requires a strong sense of “spiritual honesty.”  I have observed that too many young people from plain backgrounds start by entering medical or nursing school, yet end up with such schooling becoming a stepping stone into the world.  Few in the church can criticize a young person from wanting to help others, but it takes an honest self-assessment to ask how strong is their drive to work in a worldly environment, free from significant accountability.   

Parents also need to ask the question, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”  (Mk 8:36)  Too often, I have also encountered parents from plain anabaptist churches (including a bishop!), beamingly tell me about their child the doctor, only to find out they have left the church.  How sad and tragic - for both.

  1. Knowledge

In the interest of time and space, I will not devote a great deal of attention to this “leg” of the stool, yet it is just as important in becoming an effective Christian medical professional.  Needless to say, it is a poor witness if you’re not good at what you do. 

No matter what profession or occupation we choose, we should be excellent in what we do:  “… He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.”  (Mk 7:37)

Practical Considerations

So perhaps your “stool” has 3 strong legs.  Here are a few practical matters to consider:

Most plain people who enter the medical field, prefer to go into primary care.  This is a logical desire, since a family doctor or pediatrician has the most continuity of care with their patients.  You become part of your patients’ lives.  But primary care has the most dilemmas to deal with:
    • All hormonal birth control has abortifacient mechanisms - there is a growing demand for such, even among plain people.
    • A large part of the practice deals with vaccines, many of which are derived from and grown on fetal tissue cell lines.
    • Unless your work in primary care is exclusively among plain people, as there is an expectation that unmarried women receive birth control shots and pills.  I can count the number of primary doctors I know of that have not buckled under the pressure to provide this on one hand.

Unless a doctor has his or her own practice (becoming ever more rare theses days) the work environment is much more likely to be worldly:
    • Mixing of the sexes in a close office.  Workers are predominantly women.  Office romances are not unusual.
    • Very secular music.
    • Unhealthy language.

Women in the Medical Field:  Women are often feel called to the field, as it dovetails nicely with women’s nurturing spirit.  But it takes a special personality to find the right balance of work and home.  Here are some unique considerations:
    • A good doctor or nurse must be assertive, at times.  For example, sometimes I need to have a good nurse tell me that what I am about to do may not be a great decision.  (Yes, I do occasionally make mistakes.  The vast majority are minor, and/or they are caught by good nurses or others on the team - and vice versa.)  The problem is, that it is VERY difficult to leave this quality of assertiveness behind at work.  So there is a VERY high divorce rate (especially in fields like Emergency Medicine, where assertiveness is especially important).  The assertiveness often ends up being brought home, where transitioning to a meek and quiet spirit is exceptionally difficult. 
    • Like men in the medical field, the career can be consuming: there will be missed birthdays, church functions and services.  Holidays, weekends, and nights must be covered in many jobs.  This is especially hard for women that have or hope to have children.
    • The earnings are good.  While most don’t see this as a problem, if the husband is not the main breadwinner, there is a strong pressure to have the husband work less, since she may make much more.  If he sticks to working full time, unless the wife minimizes work (to the financial detriment of the family), the children will obviously receive much less of the attention they need.  The pressures to reverse roles, and all the implications on how the family functions, should be easy to see.


So you’ve made it this far, and are still interested in the medical field?  Here are some suggestions for keeping you on the straight and narrow, to be a good witness for the Lord:

  1. Vision
KNOW what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you will serve the Lord once you get there.

  1. Wait on the Lord
Nowhere is it written that an MD or RN degree must be pursued straight out of high school.  Few young people in their early 20s have the maturity it takes to go through such schooling unscathed.  While every individual is different, I recommend that young people gain several years of real world experience and skills before they go on to a degree.  Not only will they be able to better identify with workers, they will also gain the maturity to stand faithful.  If someone simply can’t wait, this is evidence that they must wait to gain wisdom and maturity.

  1. Accountability
Churches should take an active roll in ensuring their members have the support and accountability they need to succeed.  This does not include simply having a farewell service or goodbye party as they are sent off into the world.  Students should stay within commuting distance.  Regular and frequent counseling opportunities should be scheduled for ministry to help students find their way through the mine fields, temptations, and emotional turmoil that often accompanies schooling.  Established professionals in the church should establish a “buddy” system to help shepherd newcomers.  

  1. Choose Wisely
    • Research where you will be studying and working.  
    • A casual work environment may seem to be a good place to work, but may be a spiritual disaster zone.  Look also for negative attitudes, which are contagious and can be quickly toxic.  Professionalism and common values are a must.
    • Be up front with your faith and convictions.  
    • Consider training in a specialty besides primary care.  There is definitely a need for Christian doctors and nurses in primary care, but the ethical conflicts are growing.  There is no such need for compromised Christian doctors and nurses.

  1. Be Ready to Walk Away
Even with the proper research, finding a good place to work may be difficult.  I once worked at a small hospital ER, telling them that I was a Christian doctor, and that I didn’t do abortions and didn’t refer for them either.  They did not have a problem with this, and gladly hired me on.  When I started to see a number of abortion complications coming through the ER, I found out that, unknown to many, regularly scheduled abortions were being done in the hospital.  While certainly any patient in need must be helped, I was considered (officially or not) as part of their abortion team.  When I confronted the administration about this, I requested that they choose between stopping the abortions or my resignation.  They chose my resignation.

  1. Balance
Medicine can be an all consuming occupation, so learn how to “Control the Beast.”  (I am still learning) :
    • Realize that nobody is indispensable.  If I, as an ER doctor, were to pass away today, they would not close the ER down.  Administration may have to scramble to fill in the gaps, a replacement would be found without too much of a delay, but life would go on.  
    • Realize that if you don’t recognize your indispensability, you may be afflicted with a “God complex,” which is where no Christian should find themselves.  (Eventually, all "indispensable" people, like the rest of us, do their part to fill the graveyards, and so ultimately meet their Maker.)
    • Consider then the toll taken on the ministry of your family by prolonged absences.  Find a job that will allow you to not neglect your family.  They are out there with some looking.
    • Learn to say “No.”  This will allow you to spend more time with the Lord personally, and in His other ministries at church and home.
    • Nontraditional Routes:  Concerning specifically medical school, from the time of High School graduation, to the time one can actually start practice, under normal circumstances, it takes a minimum of 11 years of study at a tremendous financial cost.  Add to this the time I recommended in “the real world” to spiritually mature, a young person is looking at being over 30 before finally settling down to a practice in Medicine!  (I was 34.)   There may be some less costly options in terms of time and expense: becoming a Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner, which can take about half the time.  Grads can specialize in fields as diverse as orthopedics to oncology (cancer) to ophthalmology.  


The medical field is certainly an attractive one to go into for many reasons.  I hope I have provided some insights into some of the finer, yet more important things that Christians need to consider.  If you have gathered that I would advise extreme caution, you would be correct.  

In fact, there was only one young man that I met, that had a strong interest in medical school, who I felt should go into medical school.  While very intelligent, he also had a strong vision and calling/passion to be a missionary serving a very primitive people.  He had support from his church, and developed a plan of accountability from his family.  His faith and knowledge in the things of God had great vitality and stability.  I gladly offered him a recommendation, should he choose to go to medical school.  He declined my offer, spent the next 3 years becoming an ER RN to gain experience, then promptly went into the mission field in Peru.  I think he made the right decision. 

“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it …”  (Ps 127:1)

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