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Messly Top Tips for Choosing Your Speciality

Messly’s mission is to help doctors make evidence-based decisions about their careers.  Sign up here (register) to access our training navigator and review bank to find the rotation you want!

Today we look at ways of choosing your speciality! For every doctor, choosing which specialty to do is one of the biggest, and hardest, decisions we make. Often this decision is based off hearsay, and snatched conversations from older peers, with very little evidence-based decision making in the process. This can inevitably lead to making the wrong choices. 

We’ll take you through some steps to help you think about the speciality thats right for you.

The amount of choices you have after foundation training is mind-boggling – 60 specialities and over 30 sub-specialities, choosing one can seem impossible. You have to factor in training times, exams, your interests and plenty of others. Here are some of our tips to choosing a speciality:

  1. Think about the lifestyle you want

There is nothing wrong with wanting a life outside of your career. You might have activities or sports clubs that you’re involved with and might want to continue. Consider how much free time is important to you. Although the speciality you choose is not the only factor that determines the number of hours you work, it can play a role.

2. Do you need variety?

Enjoy the idea of unpredictability? Consider a medical specialty such as emergency medicine, some might want a lot of variety on the job but others prefer a routine.

3. How do you do under pressure?

How do you do with life or death situation’s? Prefer a more chilled out day? It’s difficult to predict which speciality will be the most stressful, workloads vary a lot as well. Take a look at our analysis to see how specialities rank on these terms. We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to.

4. How long are you willing to train?

You probably don’t mind long training, or you would not have become a doctor. But after five or six years of medschool and two years of foundation training, you may not want to commit to a lengthy spell in the speciality pathways. GP training takes 3 years at the minute (likely to be extended to 4), whilst others take 5 to 8 years. Check out our guide to applying for CT1/ST1 Training to see which speciality involves what.

5. What kind of patient do you want to work with?

Not all doctors have a certain population they want to treat. For others, they have an interest in working with children, the elderly or patients with mental health issues. If you have a strong interest in caring for a certain population, it may help lead you to a certain specialty.

6. Take a quiz!

On a less serious note –  try one of these quizzes to give you a starting point to work with, some of the results may surprise you!

At the end of the day, think of what you value most, your personal circumstances and what your end goals are. Medicine can seem like a long road with plenty of forks along the path – we all want to avoid taking the wrong fork if possible. But it’s also not the end of the world if you do, plenty of doctors end up switching careers – even Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard of the RCGP did!

Take a look at our training navigator, read some of the honest reviews on our site to get a feel for the training involved and of course, speak to people you’ve worked with – colleagues/friends/seniors, who are in those fields.

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  • H
    August 2, 2018

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