Three things to think about before making a decision to change specialities

September 22, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

Click here for 2021 shadowing opportunities

Gap Medics student Stevie in the surgery department Changing specialities is not something that anyone can take lightly. You’ve already spent years getting qualified, obtaining certification and doing your residency and internship in your current speciality. Changing over to another medical field will essentially mean starting all over again. Your seniority and your pay in particular are two areas where you will be hit really hard. However, if the thought of changing has even crossed your mind it means you are probably not happy in your chosen speciality and perhaps switching may be a better move after all. But how will you know for sure?


Before you take this huge step, experts advise that it is crucial to take some time to get to the root of why you want to change. Perhaps the problem lies elsewhere?

Here are three things to think about that will help you do an in depth self-assessment so whatever decision you take, it won’t be something you regret.

1. Does the problem lie within your personal or professional life?

Sometimes personal problems are so deep rooted that we prefer to not think about it at all. The downside with this is the problem does not go away. Instead it just gets transferred onto another area. It’s easier to think that changing your work place or your speciality itself will erase the unhappiness within. Unfortunately, it will only compound your problems as you find yourself trading your comfort zone and starting all over again in unfamiliar territory.

Take a moment to explore your personal space and try and determine if all is okay. Your feeling of unhappiness may be stemming from empty nest syndrome or a relationship that is not working out or perhaps having to care for an elderly relative. It is absolutely crucial to separate your personal feelings before you make a professional change that will not really change anything but will just make things worse.

2. Are you looking to change because of hierarchy problems with your colleagues or your boss?

The truth is, anywhere you go there’s always going to be a hierarchy and when you are new to the establishment, you may be more affected by it. There really is no perfect set up and you would be setting yourself up for disappointment if that were what you are looking for. Unless the situation is truly unbearable or abusive, you may want to reconsider your decision and look instead at what you can do to improve your current situation. 

3. Are the physical demands of your speciality pushing you towards this decision?

Some specialities can be particularly strenuous and while it may have felt like a breeze when you were younger, it can begin to weigh you down as you get older too. If you feel like it is time to scale back on the physical demands, changing to a less strenuous field may be a wide decision. Fortunately, there are several options that you can choose from that are less physically demanding and also do not involve having to enrol in any long-term program. Consider teaching, case management, infection control or data analysis.