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Some prospective medical professionals know exactly where they wish to specialize before they even begin med school. Others are drawn to a number of specialties and have a harder time picking a residency program that will fit them. If you are still unsure what path you wish to take, keep the following in mind.
Ask yourself which of your skills you value the most. How do they fit in with the residency programs and specialties you are considering? Skills that range from a high level of manual dexterity to a high level of emotional intelligence to a knack for problem solving can give you ideas where you will fit best.
What classes and subjects fascinated you most? Think in terms of the ones you would research even if you did not have assignments in that area. Think of ones where the knowledge came most easily. Which topics could you happily deal with for the rest of your career?
What medical specialties are likely to be most in demand? While this should not be the central factor when you are considering specialties, it is important to consider what the market will be like for the specialty you are considering. This can be a big factor in how long it takes you to find a position and where in the country you will be able to live.
What sort of environments do your prefer? Do you prefer working with a team? Do you like an environment with a lot of variety in your day to day activities? Do you see yourself living in a city, a suburb or somewhere rural? Consider each of these answers. Certain specialties will be more in demand in certain areas and will offer different types of day to day activities.
Do you prefer time spent doing procedures or diagnostics? Some specialties have much more of a focus on regular procedures. Others will involve diagnostic skills more. By thinking in terms of how you wish to spend your time, you can narrow down with specialty programs fit best.
Think about how you perform under stress. And, which situations do you find most stressful. Different specialties have different demands, and it would be difficult to label which one is the most stressful for practitioners. By assessing, instead, what environments are difficult for you to deal with and which make you thrive, you can make better decisions about the sort of practice you would like to pursue.
Consider other aptitudes and preferences. The areas where you are strongest as a student are not the only things to consider when you are working toward a choice of residency program and specialty. Do you have a particular population who you would like to work with? Some are drawn to children or caring for the elderly, while other people would rather see people of all ages from a number of different demographics. Do you prefer a lot of personal interaction or would you rather work quietly without spending as much time face to face with patients and families? These can determine which specialty you will find most rewarding and suitable.
Ask trusted mentors for advice. Often, others can see the things in us that we cannot see ourselves. Talk with advisors and instructors at your school. You should also seek out practicing physicians in the specialty you are considering. They can tell you what the day to day life in their practice is like to give you an idea if this is what you are interested in.
Take a medical specialty aptitude test. These tests will not give you a definitive answer about what specialty and which residency program will fit your knowledge and skill set best. However, it can reveal some of your strengths and can be a valuable tool for someone who is torn between a number of programs.
There is no one right way to make a decision about what residency program is best for you or what sort of medicine you want to practice. By carefully considering your own strengths, how you like to spend your time and what sort of lifestyle you see for yourself, you can make the most informed decision about what you want to do and choose a specialty that fits you best.
About the Author
Stacy Meyer is the VP of Enrollment at Trinity School of Medicine. A fully accredited Medical School in the Caribbean, Trinity is located in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Students graduating from Trinity are authorized to take part in the United States Medical Licensing Examinations. To learn more visit www.trinityschoolofmedicine.org.