Is Switching Specialties During Medical Residency A Good Idea?

October 25, 2013

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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If you are curious about whether you can switch specialties after you start your residency training or at a later point in your career – the answer to that is yes you can. But you must know that it is definitely not easy. The process can be long drawn and complex. No matter how valid the reason and how justified you are, switching gears mid-way also means extra training time, lost salary and added educational costs.  

Some students are very confident with their specialty choice while many will be a little shaky when it comes to deciding what specialization they would like to pursue. This decision has to be taken before you put in your residency application and it should never be a random one. 

There are a few key factors that you can consider before you take your final decision. 


Take Time To Make The Right Choice

Your specialty choice must be made with a lot of deliberation. The objective is to find a specialty that suits your psyche, personality and liking. Why is this so critical? Simply because, vocational theory studies have proved that making the right choice is the key to being satisfied with your professional life. Ideally, you should choose a career that matches your personality, values, interest and skills. 

You will be able to get some inkling about these factors based on the practice settings you prefer, the type of patients you want to treat or even the medical conditions that interest you, the activities and tasks that are part of a certain specialty etc. 


Students on their way to Morogoro regional hospital Exposure

Your medical school experience will play a big role in your decision making. This includes all the rotations and the coursework that you have completed. However, there would have been definite time constraints and there is really no way that you can gain full exposure in all the different medical fields, which means you have to make a decision based on partial knowledge only. For instance, in the surgical stream, you are not the one performing the surgery and it is not always possible to get a clear picture of what it actually involves.    

Thus, formal exposure will always be limited and to a certain extent, you have to rely on rotations and data. This too, is quite inadequate because your residency application goes in much before you complete all your rotations. The key lies in not waiting for the rotations to find your answer. Make additional efforts to actively explore all the different specialties when you start medical school. 


Multiple Choices

Another common thing that many medical students realize is that they fit in very well with different specialties. If this is the case, the truth is that you will be happy no matter which specialization you finally veer towards. This is because the there is a possibility that these fields you are drawn to will have some common strains in them.  

This phase is a lot about soul-searching and there is absolutely nothing wrong with spending some extra time deciding what your final choice will be. At the end of the day, it is a tough choice for you and giving it due consideration will ensure that you opt for something that will give you work satisfaction.