“There are two types of regrets in this world: things that you do and things that you don’t do. The best way to live life is to only regret the things you’ve done.“– an obviously very exhausted Radiation Oncology physician who wanted to say something profound to a room full of 1st year med students
Hey guys, Theresa here! It’s been awhile, I know, but I thought I’d blog about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately: choosing a specialty. I think this topic isn’t just something that medical students have to deal with, but literally everyone has the dilemma of deciding on a career. It’s a lot of pressure to choose something that you’ll end up doing for the rest of your life.
You’d think that going into professional school, you basically know what you want to do for the rest of your life. And truth be told, some do. When I started medical school less than a year ago, I was 100% sure that I wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon. That didn’t last long, however. As the year has gone on and I’ve had more exposure to other specialties, I can say that I do not know what specialty I’ll apply for in my 4th year. Honestly, I feel like it was easier to decide to become a physician than figure out which kind of physician I want to be.
At the same time, as a rising second year, it’s still early enough in my medical education that it’s fine that I haven’t chosen my specialty yet. In fact, many of upperclassmen and residents I have talked to did not make a decision until the end of their first year after they had rotated through the different clerkships and taken some elective rotations. This makes the most sense — deciding only when you have had real exposure to the different specialties out there. And trust me, they are all completely different! I mean, would you want your dermatologist fixing a valve in your heart? Probably not. But both of these specialists all took the same classes in medical school, yet their respective careers and lifestyles are vastly different.
This all being said, there still is a lot of pressure to choose your specialty early, especially if you want to go into some of the more competitive ones like ENT or ophthalmology. Applicants are for these residencies are so competitive that students even remotely interested are encouraged to engage in research and shadowing as early as possible (like 1st year early) in order to have a fighting change of matching.
One of the great things that my school provides for us indecisive students is a program called Careers in Medicine (CiM). The directors of CiM put together programs like “Residency Speed Dating” in addition to specialists panels that correspond to the organ system block we are studying at the moment (for example, for our pulmonary block, the panel consisted of pulmonolgists, critical care internists, anesthesiologists and thoracic surgeons). These programs are wonderful because the physicians don’t try to sugar-coat anything. They will tell you the absolute worst things about their field. Sometimes it can seem harsh to hear things like a doc chose emergency medicine so that he wouldn’t have to deal with a patient for a long time, but it’s something that we need to know as medical students trying to figure out what is best for us and will make us the happiest in the long run. You want to choose a specialty that fits your interest as well as your personality and lifestyle.
I’ll end with this: it’s okay not knowing what you want to do. Go out and explore different things and don’t settle for anything less than what’s best for you. As a physician once said to me, “If you can imagine doing the worst part of your job everyday for a week straight, then that’s the right job for you.”
That’s all for now guys! I’ll probably be MIA for a little bit since I have T-minus 25 days left of school with two quizzes, two tests, an OSCE and a shelf exam all crammed in there. But when I’m all finished up, I’ll post a recap of my first year along with what I’m doing with my “Last Summer” as well as what’s ahead for year two. Until then, thanks for reading!