Monday, February 25, 2008

Choosing a Specialty

On Friday I wrote about emergency medicine, which today has me thinking I should say something more about choosing a specialty. Not that I’m an expert on the subject, mind you. I’m simply expressing my own thoughts on the matter.

In my humble opinion, choosing a specialty is a lot like choosing to go to med school in the first place. It really boils down to two basic things:

1) What do you want to be doing day in and day out for the next 30 odd years?
2) What level of income are you going to be comfortable with?

Now I’m sure there are those who will immediately object and say that I’m over simplifying things, or worse, that money shouldn’t be a factor. They will be quick to point out a dozen other factors you should also consider such as what sort of personality traits you possess and so on and so forth.

But the truth is, if you really examine those other factors they are merely subsets of the two I listed. Your personality traits, for example, are simply characteristics that go into determining what you will be happy doing for the rest of your working life.

Are you an outgoing person who likes dealing one on one with people? Or are you the studious type who would rather bury yourself in the lab doing research? Ultimately, you’re going to be drawn towards the things you like to do.

And then there is the “hot button” question over compensation. That’s right, I’m talking about all that dirty old money, wampum, bread, moulah, greenbacks, coin, jack… whatever you want to call it.

Bring up the subject of doctors and money and somebody is bound to get upset. Don’t ask me why. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just part of the job description. It is nothing more than statistical data to be used in figuring the cost / benefit ratio. Getting emotional about it won’t change which direction the sun comes up every morning.

Earning potential is a factor that comes into play when choosing any career path. Medicine is no different. How much of an influence it has on your decision is entirely a matter of personal choice.

For that reason, I refuse to enter into discussions with my fellow students (or anyone else for that matter) over the question of how much doctors should earn. If your motivation for entering the medical profession is purely altruistic, fine. If not, that’s fine too. Won’t make you a better doctor one way or the other in my opinion.

I’m not about to waste my time arguing about it.

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