29 April, 2016
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Many students embark on their long journey towards becoming a doctor with a clear idea of the end goal. This might mean becoming a paediatrician, or a neurosurgeon, or perhaps an ophthalmologist. Many more students, however, embark on the same journey with absolutely no idea as to what they will do with their medical degree.
The first thing to remember when it comes to choosing a medical specialty is that you don’t have to make this choice before or during medical school! There is enough to worry about with the endless assault of assessment that there is really no point in worrying about which area you will specialise in. At the same time, there are some benefits to selecting a specialty early. Many students will get the opportunity during medical school to assist with research and meet mentors in their chosen field. Having a good idea of where you want to be might mean you are better able to make the most of these opportunities.
Students will never really know if they like their specialty until they have really had an opportunity to try it out. This opportunity may only present itself in your final years of medical school, or perhaps even after you have started working in your internship or junior medical officer years. As a shortcut, it is always good to seek out a specialist in the field you are considering and see if you able to speak to them or shadow them to see what their job is really like.
One of the best pieces of advice I have heard is to select something that you love and that you are actually good at. The harsh reality of the medical profession is that it is a competitive atmosphere, where your competition happens to be some of the brightest and motivated minds in society. To excel in this environment you need to understand you strengths and be prepared to make sacrifices to obtain any specialty.
Speaking of sacrifices, many medical graduates find that the specialty they choose becomes more of a lifestyle choice than anything else. For those who would like to spend a lot of time with family, travel, or pursue other interests at the same time as a medical career in certain specialities such as General Practice, Radiology, Pathology or Psychiatry may be a preferred option. If you want to look at your options & where you could potentially study, PostgradAustralia is a great platform that allows you to explore, compare and apply for different medical specialities around Australia.
Most importantly though as a student, the only way you can go wrong is to forget to have an open mind. After all perhaps you will specialise in an area of medicine that you don’t even know about yet!