Ross University Blog

CAREER ADVICE: Which Medical Specialty Makes Your Heart Twitch?

August 25, 2015

Choosing a Career in Medicine

This blog entry was written by Vijay Rajput, MD, FACP, SFHM, Professor and Chair of Medicine at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). Dr. Rajput is also the Medical Director for the Office of Student and Professional Development at RUSM.

Medicine is a career, not a job. The difference is that in a career you invest yourself, develop professionally, become more mature, and create a legacy. In a job, you can become the best burger-flipper, for example, with practice, but it’s still not a career.

Nevertheless, a physician, too, needs to get up every morning and go to work, and enjoy the work in which he or she is engaged. Medical students should be made aware of the wide range of options from which they may choose in pursuing their careers, and it is incumbent on medical educators to guide them through the process.

The basic question that needs to be answered by the student is what do you enjoy? Which medical specialty makes your heart start twitching? More specifically: 

  • Do you enjoy the cognitive aspects of analyzing a problem, or do you like to use psycho-motor skills and work with your hands? Do you enjoy both types of work?
  • What type of patient do you prefer to work with, children, adults, pregnant women?
  • What type of environment makes you more comfortable – a hospital operating room, emergency room, an outpatient office, a lab?
  • Do you enjoy taking care of an acute rather than a chronic problem? Do you prefer to manage a crisis rather than a chronic condition?
  • Do you prefer to get immediate satisfaction, or do you not mind getting delayed gratification?

Clearly, a person who likes to use psycho-motor skills in an acute situation, where immediate gratification is possible, is a person who would enjoy being a surgeon. A person who is comfortable in an office setting, and does not require immediate gratification, may be suited to family medicine or pediatrics. While it may seem obvious, many medical students do not necessarily ask themselves these questions to determine what specialty they wish to pursue. Additionally, an individual’s personality plays a role. If you are taciturn and reserved by nature, and can come across as grumpy, maybe pediatrics is not for you. On the other hand, if you are naturally cheerful, pleasant and very patient, you should consider a career as a pediatrician or a family medicine doctor.

Of course there is also the consideration of how difficult it may be to obtain a residency match in any area, and how the student’s academic record and United States Medical Licensing Examination® Step scores measure up. Students should aim high, but also have realistic expectations.

Now here are some don’ts when considering a career in medicine: 

  • Don’t choose a specialty based on a charismatic, exciting faculty member in that field. You need to talk to many people within that specialty to build up a comprehensive picture of what it’s really like.
  • Don’t try to navigate the market and choose a field because it seems to be in demand. Markets can swing every few years, and you might find yourself in a career you don’t enjoy, and earning less money than you anticipated.
  • Don’t neglect the opportunities within opportunities. For example, if you like the area of infectious diseases, check out the possibility of working in epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control or the Department of Health.
  • Don’t rush your decision. Sometimes it just takes time to know what your passion really is and what you enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with that.

To achieve a rewarding career we need to do more than balance work and life. It’s not a balancing act it’s a juggling act, with the third component being integrity.

I advise medical students to follow these guidelines as they carefully consider what type of physician they wish to be and what kind of life they want to live.


Tags: Leadership , Admissions

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