LIFE AFTER MED SCHOOL Episode II
Choosing A Medical Specialty
Some medical students know exactly what kind of doctor they want to be long before applying or resuming medical school. For others, it takes years of lectures, coursework and clinical rotations for them to decide on what specialty they fancy the most. Even so, many more still have a hard time making up their minds long after graduation.
This decision could prove to be a task for many medical graduates! Asking one's self certain questions (starting with the questions in a first episode of the sequel ; "What You Must Know Before Leaving Med School") could help narrow down the choices.
The very first question to consider at this point involves your Personality.
1. What kind of Person am I?
Are you a people person? Do you genuinely enjoy listening to people? Are you interested in having a lot of patient contact? Or do you prefer as little as possible patient contact? Certain specialties such as Family Medicine, Psychiatry and aspects of Internal Medicine offer a lot of patient contact while others like Radiology and Pathology offer less patient contact. You may also want to consider your personality type in terms of your love for routine or for variety as the case may be. You don't want to be bored in your choice of specialty! SO IT BASICALLY STARTS WITH KNOWING YOURSELF!
The next 2 really important questions you want to consider have do with your Time.
2. How much Time do I want to have for myself and my family down the years? & How many years would I like to put into training?
These are really crucial questions that may well determine how happy you would be in your choice of specialty. Even though you would love to be the "Benjamin Carson" of your generation, the time it will take you to go through a Neurosurgical residency in any part of the world and practice as a Neurosurgeon is worth considering, especially if raising a family with a working wife (perhaps an equally ambitious medical graduate also considering a surgical residency!) is important to you. You definitely have to be clear on how much time you want to give to the profession. COUNT THE COSTS!..
Along the same line as the previous 2 points involves considering the sort of lifestyle you wish to have outside the hospital doors!
3. What type of lifestyle do I want?
After the long hours of work and "crazy" calls, there is nothing wrong with wanting some kind of life outside of the hospital walls. If this is important to you, you want to narrow your focus in the direction of specialties that are less time intensive. Even within specialties certain sub-specialties consume less of the doctors time than others. So it's basically a question of how much free time you wish to have to yourself on the long run. This one is more important to some than others.
Are you one of those that live for the "energy-drive and adrenaline-rush" of the emergency room or are you allergic to stress? It is important to know if you are someone who does well under pressure as you consider a choice of specialty. Certain aspects of medicine are filled with life-threatening situations in which you are regularly involved in high pressure, life or death situations in your patients. You want to sure of what you can handle before getting into a specialty. ARE YOU HARDCORE?
5. Does the Paycheck matter to you?
This is one, I was almost not going to talk about, not because it's not important , but largely because I personally have my reservations when it comes to practicing medicine with remuneration in mind. This is obviously a key factor in "Choosing a Medical Specialty" for many. However, there are many parts of the world where doctors employed by the government earn similar salaries irrespective of specialty or call hours, while in other countries there are differences in the paychecks of practitioners across specialties. Hence, those who are going to decide based on the paycheck will nurture the idea of practicing in another environment. This leads to the next question
6. Where do I want to Train/Practice?
The increasing trend of medical students trained in developing countries pursuing residency training notably in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia has largely been due to the desire to get the "best" training possible as well as better appreciation and a "better life" worthy of the sacrifices of the medical profession. Other reasons include a lack of availability of adequate training facilities for certain sub-specialties such as Neurosurgery, Cardiothoracic , Vascular Surgery, Interventional Cardiology and Intervention Radiology most commonly. Hence, answering the question of where you would want to train or practice could indeed open up more options of specialties that may necessarily not be "marketable" in your home country. See What You Must Know Before Leaving Med School"Episode 1.
Finally, it is important that you choose a specialty that you love! You want to enjoy doing what you do, asides from being able to settle you bills, having time for your family and going on exotic vacations. For the sake of the patients you are going to care for and the younger colleagues who look up to you and are eager to learn from you, YOU NEED TO LOVE WHAT YOU DO. You therefore should consider this last question!
7. What Makes Your Day!
This may involve thinking back to your medical school days or internship years and recalling the events of your clinical rotations or particular patient encounters. There are days you felt happy to be a medical student, call hours that you weren't in a hurry to disappear from, those rotations that stood out in your clinical years, all simply because you enjoyed yourself! Perhaps your "innate" area of expertise and dream specialty choice is embedded in those memories.
Having giving so much into this course of study and practice, the least we owe ourselves is to be Happy Doctors, Giving our All on a daily basis, simply because we are Passionate about what we do.
CLICK HERE FOR EPISODE 1 OF THE SERIES; What you must know before leaving Med School
Medic-ALL inc 2015! Anniversary Week Special