Choosing your Specialty
Updated: Aug 7, 2022
By Dr Jade Scott-Blagrove, Radiology Registrar & Founder of WPMN
Paediatrics -> Neurosurgery -> Psychiatry -> Neurology -> Clinical Genetics -> Clinical Neurophysiology -> Paediatric neurology with a special interest in safeguarding -> Radiology
In a nutshell, that was my thought process from when I was an aspiring medic to now. There is so much pressure to know what you want to specialise in early however it is rare that at an early stage in our career we can make a truly informed decision. I chose radiology at the end of F1 - what was my previous experience in radiology? A couple of days at medical school, a taster week in F2 and I spent as much time as I could during foundation years going to the radiology department and courses. I thought radiology was right for me but I did not know it for sure. I am now at the stage of starting my second year as a radiology registrar and I can honestly say it is a fantastic match for me however I was not so certain 2 years ago due to the radiologist stereotype.
We are influenced by stereotypes when choosing our specialty. However if we continue to conform to enter the specialty where we think we will fit best due to that stereotype:
We may dismiss the opportunity of a specialty that we would be happier in
The specialty may not benefit from added diversity
Working in the Specialty
There is a huge difference between being a medical student in a particular specialty, working in that specialty as a junior doctor and then working in that specialty as a consultant (where you're likely to spend most of your time). There is also an even bigger difference in which hospital you gain experience in that specialty - it's great if you're able to compare a DGH and tertiary centre for example. Also, an interaction with 1 consultant could be enough to put you off a particular specialty for life whereas an experience with a different consultant could be the defining point in your career where you say 'this is for me'.
Specialty tests - Try out a test (e.g. Sci59) being as honest as you can. If you come across specialties at the top which may be suited to you but you don't like, ask yourself why you don't like it. Is it due to stereotypes, preconceived ideas or one bad experience? You may even find a new specialty - that's how I came across clinical neurophysiology and I had a great taster week.
Taster weeks - If you're in F1/F2, organise this as early as you can. I'd recommend doing a taster week in a different hospital so you get to meet a new team and have more contacts. You can usually spend time in your own hospital too with some additional organising and potentially do an audit.
Say goodbye to stereotypes!
There's no rush! If you want more thinking time or just need a break - do it! Take an F3,4,5+.
Remember, you can change your mind! Yes, training will take longer and you may do more exams in total but you'll still reach being a consultant and you'll work as one for many years (if that's your aim).
Contact Jade: firstname.lastname@example.org