3 Practical Steps for Selecting a Specialty

3 Practical Steps for Selecting a Specialty

In Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig said “The range of human knowledge today is so great that we’re all specialists. And the distance between specializations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely among them almost has to forego closeness with the people around him”. 
This also applies to medical specialties. It is important you choose carefully when selecting your specialty as it will determine your experiences and lifestyle in the future. 

On the journey to practicing medicine, many questions come about. Important decisions must be made. Some are minor and may not have much impact on the overall journey, however, others will set the pace for much of your future as a physician. Here are a few things you should take into consideration: 

  1. Be Realistic: As you go through the process of selecting a specialty, it is important that you are realistic. Properly evaluate your CV, USMLE Step Scores, Personal Statement, and the Medical Education you have received, including your academic history. Some residency programs are significantly more competitive than others, therefore, it is important to explore options such as hands-on externships to help your resume stand out. If you fall into the upper echelon of all students, you have more options for specialties to consider. However, if you are the other 90%, you will have to think carefully when choosing your specialty. If your history is not stellar, it would be in your best interest to not apply for the residency programs that are extremely competitive.
  2. Picture your life after Medical School: Do you want to work a normal 9-5 or are long shifts okay? Do you work well in High Stress situations? Do you work well with Children? Do you work well with patients with special needs? Do you work well with the elderly? While these questions may seem obvious, they are easy to overlook when examining and evaluating the medicine component of the specialty. It is important to choose a specialty that fits your personality and lifestyle. Be sure to look into a specialty that agrees with your passions outside of work. 
  3. Choose your Passion: It would be wise to pursue a specialty that you are passionate about. Your passion will bring with it the innovation to be a master of your craft. True passion should not be underestimated, as it will radiate through all facets of your medical practice. Selecting a specialty is not an easy task. Above all, it is important to love the field that you specialize in as you are setting out to be an expert. Follow your passion and envision your future as you consider the various specialties. Above all, be realistic about your expectations. 

Lastly, it is important to stay current in the events taking place in Graduate Medical Education and the Match. Please examine the article below for requirements and statistics with regard to various specialties and the candidates that are seeking residencies in those specialties.

Source: http://www.ecfmg.org/resources/NRMP-ECFMG-Charting-Outcomes-in-the-Match-International-Medical-Graduates-2014.pdf