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Read this before choosing a medical specialty

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Getting into medical school is one thing, and choosing a specialty to pursue is another. Some people are lucky enough to know what they want to specialize in quite early on and that’s fantastic, but some others have no clue and that’s fine too. 

The decision-making process can be quite daunting to say the least considering you’re literally deciding what direction to steer your life towards. But there are key questions you should ask yourself to make the process a tad bit easier, and here are a few of them.

Adapted from The DO

Do you like surgery or do you like medicine?

This is a good first place to start when you’re trying to decide on what specialty best suits you. During your clinical rotations in med school, you get to experience different specialties first hand by being a part of various hospital teams. At the end of this, I think you’ll have a vague idea of your preferences by evaluating what specialties you found to be absolutely torturous and those you enjoyed the most. In my opinion, surgical specialties are more straight forward than medical specialties. I remember one of my professors in med school saying, “In surgery, you’re either cutting it off or sewing it back in place…”. LOL! Very vague representation of an entire group of specialties, I know, but you get the point. Yes? No? Medicine to me is like an endless maze, it just doesn’t end. 

Adapted from American Medical Association

What patient population are you most comfortable with or enthusiastic about?

Some people would rather interact with kids,  some just can’t deal. Some may fancy having mostly elderly patients, and some may prefer women. What are your preferences? 

How long are you prepared to train for?

The length of time for specialty training varies. Surgical specialties have longer training schemes in most countries, ranging from 5 to about 8 post-grad years. Medical specialties, on the other hand, don’t take as long. 

How much “non-clinical free time” do you crave?

A good number of young Medics have life goals outside of the clinical environment and require some free time to tend to them. If this is you, then it’ll be in your best interested to pick a specialty that allows you some free time to dedicate to your other ambitions. 

Adapted from SERMO

Are you easily grossed out?

Are you easily turned off by the sight of excessive blood or the smell of internal body organs and fluids? Then you’re probably better off choosing a specialty that has little or none of these. Specialties like psychiatry and radiology might be good options for you to consider. 

Can you perform efficiently under pressure?

All specialties come with their own bit of pressure and stress but some more than others. If you tend to bow in the face of pressure then maybe avoid emergency and trauma-based specialties because you’re not likely to enjoy them.

There are a lot more points to consider before choosing what type of doctor you want to become than are outlined here. Talk to your senior colleagues, get the most out of your clinical rotations, study your strengths, weaknesses and preferences and most importantly believe that you’ll make the best choice for you. 

Featured image: Amboss

Dr Wendy Evans-Uhegbu

The author Dr Wendy Evans-Uhegbu

Dr. Wendy Evans-Uhegbu is a graduate of The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, with experience in Connected Health, Medical Technology, Clinical Research, Medical Education, and Web Design. She is a member of the Medics Abroad team with the role of Chief Communications Officer. She also runs a Medical Communications and Publishing business (www.odrcommunications.com), and is the author of the newly published children's book "The Things Around Me".

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