At least a couple of times a week, I’m asked the same question: do you have any idea what specialty you might want to go into? The answer to that question is becoming longer and more convoluted by the day.
Prior to medical school and in my first year, I was sure that I would become a pediatrician of some stripe, maybe a neonatologist. Then, in my second year, I developed a real fondness for pathology and thought that pathology would become my career.
Now in third year, a time when things are supposed to become clear, the issue just gets more confusing. Family medicine was not a clerkship I thought I would particularly like, but when I tried it, I loved it! It felt very natural, like I was making a real contribution to patient care and being a helpful team member. The surgery clerkship was deeply challenging, and made me so tired that merely sitting down for a moment put me at risk of dozing off. I thought I hated it, but, somewhat surprisingly, I got some very positive feedback from a surgeon that made me reconsider a bit. Now, in the pediatrics clerkship, it’s been a mixed bag. I’ve enjoyed some parts like genetics, disliked others (including the NICU, which was disappointing), and discovered that I definitely don’t like long, patient-centered rounds. Inpatient pediatric rounds have made me long for surgery rounds, which were rapid fire and efficient. On surgery, a few pokes and prods could quickly reassure us that a patient did not have appendicitis and we would be on our way. On pediatrics, rounds can stretch through the morning and into lunch. This depends on the attending, of course, but there really is nothing like surgical rounds when it comes to speed.
All this to say, I am completely unsure of what specialty I’ll be pursuing in the future, and the time to decide is beginning to wind down. By summer, it will be time to gather letters of recommendation and write a personal statement. It’s hard to believe that in about seven months I will be largely committed to a career path. I have three more clerkships to complete – internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and psychiatry. Then, I will have to carefully consider which field is most likely to provide me with a fulfilling career to last a lifetime. I spent much of high school and college and even medical school postponing this decision, and soon it will be time to get serious and decide. At this point though, the whole issue is decidedly murky…as clear as mud.