January 28, 2015
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Some students enter medical school already having decided which field they want to specialise in. For others, that decision can be a little more challenging. You may be sure that you want to pursue a career in medicine but how do you choose just one specialty from amongst so many? It’s not an easy decision but choosing your specialty is one of the most important decisions that you will have to make. After all, this is something you will be doing for the rest of your life. Here are a few tip tips to help you make this important decision…
First, make a list of all specialities you are interested in.
In most medical schools, clinical rotations in specialities such as surgery, paediatrics, OB/GYN and internal medicine are compulsory during the 3rd year. Some schools also include a few other specialties such as neurology, emergency medicine, radiology and family medicine. While you should ideally explore as much as possible before you choose a specialty, what do you do if none of these are on your list? There are a couple of solutions to this. One way is by doing an internship in your chosen speciality during the holidays or do an Away Elective at another school that offers specialities from your list. The more you try, the more you’ll be clear on what you like and what you don’t like.
While anatomy and firsthand experience with blood is a compulsory requirement to get through medical school, not everyone can handle the sight of blood on a daily basis. If you are not comfortable being around blood and other internal organs, you may want to stay away from specialties such as cardiology, surgery or gynaecology and consider fields such as psychiatry, physiotherapy or occupational therapy instead.
For a lot of people, medical school loans will hang over their head right through their school term and this could pressurise them to choose a field in medicine that pays the best. The truth is that it is better to choose a specialty that you love over a specialty that you will detest after a few years even if it means taking a year or two longer to pay off your school loans. This is a choice that you have to live with your whole life. It is important that you like the field you get into so that you can wake up every day and do something you love. Sure, you could switch to another field later on, but think of how much more time and money you would then need to invest to make this change.
While choosing a specialty, it is necessary to be practical and realistic. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses. For example, you may love a certain specialty such as surgery but if you do not have the skills to be good in that field, it can be a seriously limiting factor. Or if you know that you prefer working fixed hours as opposed to working long hospital hours, you should choose a specialty such as physiotherapy, which allows you to do that instead of specialising in a field such as oncology, where you cannot afford to be inflexible in terms of work hours. You should also take into consideration other factors like how competitive the field is, whether it is something you will get bored of ten years later, how much studying is required and whether there will be career advancement opportunities in that field. Keep your lifestyle and career goals in mind when making your choices.