Ask any physician and the overwhelming chances are that they will have changed their medical specialty at least two or three times during the course of their studies. This is entirely normal because so much hinges on what specialty one chooses and, sooner rather than later, it’s going to become impossible to change. The last thing a medical student wants is to find themselves a few years into a medical position, specializing in something that they feel isn’t right for them. That said, the process of trying out different specialties cannot go on indefinitely, and there comes a time when you must settle or risk jeopardizing the course of your studies (or, after that, the course of your career). So, it’s wise to get some advice on how to decide on the right medical specialty for you. Health Jobs Nationwide, an online healthcare jobs board displaying, among others, nurse practitioner jobs, say that although the U.S. is currently going through a medical talent shortage and an incredibly pronounced jobseekers’ market, the need to specialize by the time one is looking for a job is, naturally enough, the only way to actually get a job. You need to do it eventually
The Phenomenon of “This Isn’t for Me”
The only way to find out what you want to specialize in is try out the different areas of healthcare. But within that experience there is a central dilemma. The way you “try out” different medical specialties is to go on attendings at healthcare institutions. While this can give you a pretty good idea of what it’s like to work as a particular specialist, it doesn’t give you the full experience. Med student placements are not the same thing as actually working as a medical professional. They never can be, and inherent in this is the danger that you’ll only utter those alarming words “this isn’t for me” once it’s too late. The best way to avoid this as best you can (sadly, you can never be 100% sure) is to make some serious considerations before selecting a specialty.
Things to Consider Before Specializing
Your best chance of ending up in a rewarding career is therefore to combine these two tactics. Try out what you can but make these considerations first. You can only try out so many things, so this is absolutely essential. Here are the things you should seriously consider before making a move on anything:
Ask People Who Work There
And you should ask them many different things. Not only should you quiz them on what the day-in, day-out of a particular medical specialty is like, but you should also ask them how they expect it to change in future (and how it has changed in the past). This is invaluable information.
Be Brutally Honest with Yourself About Your Schedule
Med school will give you a pretty good idea of the commitment required to work in a particular medical specialty, but you can ever experience this fully. Accordingly, you should get a sense of what the job is like and then seriously consider what it will be like working the typical hours. Can you manage it? Be honest.
Consider the Future of Your Specialty
Biotech, big pharma, and medical politics – these are all factors that have revolutionized and will continue to revolutionize your field, regardless of what it is. What does the future look like for your specialty? Will you want to work there in ten years? Medicine is a calling, but having a calling isn’t enough. The question of how you will serve patients is one fraught with anxiety and uncertainty. That is just the way it is.