Choosing a medical specialty to pursue is a huge responsibility. This decision will affect every aspect of your life: from mental health to financial stability, from every day responsibilities to your patients to the responsibilities you will have to your family and loved ones. Luckily, there are 5 easy steps you can utilize to ensure that you are making a well-informed decision that is right for you.
Your research into different specialties will begin properly during clinical rotations. These will certainly help you get an idea of what each specialty involves. However, this will be somewhat a surface introduction. It is your responsibility to research your chosen specialties. Firstly, find out what a resident doctor does in your chosen field. What are their responsibilities? What is their interaction with patients like? What role do they play in the medical team they are a part of? The answers to these questions will help you get a broader picture of what will be expected of you when you enter your specialty.
This step is perhaps the most important. Reflect on what aspects of medicine you are most enthusiastic about. Being practical is certainly important when it comes to choosing your medical field, but you must also follow your passion. Do you look forward to building long-lasting relationships with your patients? Maybe a primary specialty like Family Medicine is right for you. Or do you want to help people in urgent, life-threatening circumstances? Perhaps Emergency Medicine is the right path for you. Consider what makes you excited about becoming a physician and research what specialties can provide you with these opportunities.
Having a variety of experiences in different medical fields is key to making a well-informed decision. During medical school, you will have the opportunity to familiarize yourself with some of the most general specialties, like Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Surgery, and so on. You will also have the chance to take electives in your preferred field. While you should gain as much experience as possible in the field of your choice, don’t forget to branch out a little. You might be surprised that you find another field just as fascinating and thrilling. Keep in mind that some residency programs are extremely competitive, so it’s always good to have a backup specialty in case you do not get into your top-choice program.
Another tip: keep shadowing different doctors in medical school. You will be incredibly busy with coursework and rotations but try to carve out some time to get a glimpse of what different specialties look like on an everyday basis.
This is another practical side of your decision, and it’s nonetheless important. Residency lengths vary greatly. You need to be honest with yourself when you decide whether you are physically and mentally ready for a residency in Neurosurgery, which lasts more than 6 years. It is normal to be tired after medical school. You need to do what is right for you and choose a specialty that will not only help you fulfill your career aspirations but will also allow you to keep your mental and physical health. Be honest with yourself when you research how long your chosen residencies are and make the decision that you right for you.
Last but not least, you should consider your potential compensation. After years of education, you will have a lot of debt. Towering costs of medical school tuition, along with living expenses and other expenditures will leave you owing a large sum of money. Research the compensation for your chosen specialty and consider if this is a feasible number for you.
Keep in mind that becoming the highest-paid doctor should not be your goal in choosing a medical specialty. Money will not sustain your happiness as a physician and will not prevent burnout in a specialty you dislike. It’s important to consider how much you will earn but remember that money is not everything when it comes to being a physician.
Residency is the last step before you become a full-fledged physician. The pressure to make the right choice in specialty can be overwhelming. Don’t let stress get in the way of pursuing your dream! If you follow these 5 steps, you can be certain that you have taken all the necessary measures to make an informed and researched decision about what kind of doctor you want to become.