Articles and Case Studies

Why Choosing a Specialty is a lot Like Dating

20 Mar 2015

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by Dr Joe-Anthony Rotella

When it comes to choosing the specialty you want to embark upon, there are a myriad of possibilities. Some are based on the impressions we form during medical school. A few are based on past experiences or on those experienced by people close to us. Others are a result of chance or simply dumb luck. By the end of this article, I hope to convince you that choosing a specialty is a lot like dating. It takes experience, maturity, experimentation and thought. But most importantly, you have to be happy.
DrJoRotellajpg

When it comes to choosing the specialty you want to embark upon, there are a myriad of possibilities. Some are based on the impressions we form during medical school. A few are based on past experiences or on those experienced by people close to us. Others are a result of chance or simply dumb luck. By the end of this article, I hope to convince you that choosing a specialty is a lot like dating. It takes experience, maturity, experimentation and thought. But most importantly, you have to be happy.

My own “love” story began in medical school. My first love was general practice, following a fantastic rotation with an amazing GP in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. Like many first loves, it was passionate and often all-consuming, but ultimately allowed me to realise things I could never imagine before. It was this first love that inspired me to found General Practice Students Network (GPSN) – Australia’s largest medical student interest group. This group has since developed into a national general practice interest group for medical students.

It seemed, at the time, that there was no other option – general practice was to be the specialty I would settle down with. But as time went on, I began to notice some changes, small and subtle, that eventually became impossible to ignore. While completing my final year of medical school, my studies forced me to look back into areas of medicine I had recklessly discounted because I had not considered them “relevant” to general practice – and new interests stirred. While there was nothing wrong with general practice, it became apparent that I needed to explore other areas of medicine. It was time to move on.

And that I did. I considered a number of specialties including, but not limited to, infectious diseases, neurology, paediatrics and even neurosurgery! During my internship, my first rotation was in general surgery. The head of the unit was a great consultant and his encouragement spurred me on to undertake a surgical year. It seemed like I had finally found where I was meant to be. But again, still an impetuous youth, I found myself as a surgical resident who didn’t really like surgery. I had mistaken the compliments and encouragement of my previous team for real passion. So I wandered again, alone and unsure of myself.

I decided to swap out of all my surgical rotations that year (such was my sense of disenfranchisement) and it landed me in the emergency department. As luck would have it, it was here where I finally found a specialty I was passionate about, that suited my wide range of interests and, in particular, allowed me to discover within it a sub-specialty I never knew existed – toxicology, the care of poisoned patients. It’s my intent to specialise in emergency medicine and then sub-specialise in toxicology. Three years later, and I haven’t looked back.

My personal life has in some ways mirrored my professional one. At the time of writing, it’s three years since I married the love of my life… a wonderful woman named Alisha, a beautiful spirit. She was the first person I met when I decided to try online dating, after my lack of success in finding “the one”. Alisha is now my wife and the mother of our son, Ned… and no, I haven’t looked back!

Just like choosing who you’ll end up with, choosing a specialty comes with much to consider. Here are my tips:

1. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Each career option has its own “highlights” and its own “bread and butter”, so be aware of what they are.

2. Keep your personal life in mind when choosing a specialty, some are by nature less forgiving than others.

3. Keep your expectations reasonable. Don’t make a Nobel Prize your determinant of success.

4. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to change your mind again.

5. Be realistic of training requirements and time commitments — if working lengthy shifts doesn’t work for you now, it’s not likely to later on.

6. Don’t fall “head over heels” in love with a specialty purely because of the extra attention paid to you. Research what that specialty requires and get to know it to find out if you’re compatible.

7. Look around you. Use senior doctors in that specialty to envisage what your life might be like.

8. It’s okay to take your time, but don’t wait too long. Opportunities might be missed.

9. Take your blinkers off – consider all specialties as a possible career pathway, especially when you’re early on in your training. We don’t always become what we set out to be.

10. If you’re not happy, make the change.

Best of luck!

 
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Dr Joe-Anthony Rotella (MDA National Member)
Emergency Medicine Registrar
Austin Health, Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

Employment Essentials, Anaesthesia, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, General Practice, Intensive Care Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Psychiatry, Radiology, Sports Medicine, Surgery
 

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