What Medical Specialty is Right for You?
As a medical student, it can be easy to stress about picking the right medical specialty for you. You might think that you don’t have little control as to where you end up, but that’s simply not true. Here are some important tips to keep in mind as you consider your future specialty family.
1. What makes your heart happy?
The path to medicine isn’t an easy one. As you complete your M3 rotations, think about what piques your interest the most. What types of clinical cases keep you constantly interested? Some decisions about specialty are made based on a gut feeling. For M2s transitioning to M3, it’s important to pick a wide variety of electives, even if you have an inclination of what you want to do. Who knows—you may be surprised!
2. Medical or Surgical?
Scrubs® jokes aside, this is a very important question to ask yourself when deciding upon a specialty in medicine. Does a great pathophysiology discussion grab your attention? Are you someone who likes a little bit of everything (*ahem internal medicine*)?
Does being in the operating room make you happier than anything in the world? You may have heard people give the advice, “there is no such thing as sort of liking surgery.”—This is not true. There are specialties (OBGYN is a great example) of a good combination of clinical and surgical time.
3. How much do you want to interact with patients?
Some love to spend time doing clinical work with patients and meeting with them and their families whereas others don’t. For example, specialties with more indirect rather than direct patient care are radiology or pathology.
Considering if you like inpatient, outpatient, or a combination of both is also something to note.
Do you enjoy longitudinal relationships with your patients? If that’s the case, a specialty like family medicine, pediatrics, or outpatient internal medicine may be for you.
4. What is your definition of a work-life balance?
This can be vastly different from one person to another. Your clinical rotations will give you a good taste of what that may be like at the resident and attending level.
Consider checking out the AMA’s list of specialties which can give a birds-eye-view of everything medicine has to offer!
One thing not mentioned previously are USMLE or COMLEX scores. If you are curious, you can find information about the average scores for each specialty via AAMC. As important as board scores are, choosing a specialty that fits you the best is equally important. Residency programs do have listed desired scores for applications, but many are also open about accepting scores below that cutoff and sometimes their process for screening applications. In short, don’t let this number deter you from applying to a specialty. Applications are supposed to be diverse, and scores are just a part of that. With that said, preparing well for your boards is always a great idea!