Choosing to go to medical school is just one part of the long process of becoming a physician. You will constantly be asked, “What’s your specialty?” Although the type of medicine you wish to practice is an important decision to make, your personality and individual preferences also play a critical role in determining which field of medicine is best for you.
Considering why you want to be a physician, along with how your personality fits with different responsibilities and patients’ needs, can help you decide where you belong.
Various Personalities, Same Goal
Each field in medicine offers a different experience for doctors, nurses, and physician’s assistants, but the goal remains the same: heal, protect, and serve patients. In addition to understanding the responsibilities of being in this field, students should also consider their own unique dispositions and how they would be assets in specific situations or when trying to connect with different types of patients. Ask yourself:
1. What are your motivations for becoming a physician? Are you motivated by money, prestige, or more personal reasons? What drove you to study this field in the first place?
2. Do you consider yourself introverted or extroverted? If you thrive off human interaction, then you should consider a specialty where communication and frequent face-to-face interactions are key.
3. Are you a risk-taker? You could excel at helping those in a war zone or developing countries if you enjoy the unknown.
4. What types of vacations or trips do you enjoy? Those who love skydiving or skiing might want a fast-paced job, while those who enjoy museums or more relaxed trips might prefer a quieter, more solitary position.
Once you understand your professional (and personal) drive, your next step is determining which area you will succeed in most. When you know which field best suits your personality, you’re able to serve patients better.
Family practice, emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, and psychiatry are a few fields that lend themselves to specific personality types. Within these different medical disciplines, after recruiting for the Army Reserve Medical Corp for many years, I’ve come to realize that all physicians share a passion for medicine and a warm heart.
• Family Practice: Family doctors are devoted to the comprehensive healthcare of their patients and have the ability to develop long-term relationships with those they treat. Because family physicians often treat children from infancy through adulthood, this field is best suited for people who are good with kids and exude a patient demeanor.
• Emergency Medicine: Working in the emergency room is not for the faint-hearted. These physicians thrive in high-pressure situations and can handle patients who are panicked, disoriented, or in severe pain. It takes a certain type of person who can maintain a calm attitude, even in the most difficult situations. Physicians who want to work quickly, think on their feet, and guide life-or-death procedures should train for an emergency position.
• Orthopedic Surgery: The stereotypes of surgeons abound — from the irritable egomaniacs to the hard-working, charismatic perfectionists. I’ve found that surgeons come in all personality types, but most are extroverts who have the natural leadership ability to run an operating room. The most successful surgeons tend to be self-disciplined and competitive.
• Psychiatry: Psychiatrists most often treat patients coping with mental illnesses, difficult life circumstances, or severe trauma, so these individuals must be compassionate and sensitive to others. Individuals who excel at helping patients in this field tend to be analytical, highly perceptive, and natural problem solvers.
Passion Drives Success in Medicine
Each area of medicine comes with different experiences, different challenges, and different patients, but the underlying message is the same: the more passionate you are about the field in which you work, the better work you will produce.
Whether you’re currently deciding which medical school is right for you or serving your residency, it’s necessary to consider what drives you to be a part of this line of work. Ask what type of job, whether at a hospital or on an Army base, you will find most fulfilling. Do you work best in areas where you can be a friend and confidant to patients? Do you thrive under the pressure of emergency situations? By finding exactly which area best suits you, you’re fueling your passion and making a change in the world of medicine.
Trish Green has more than 17 years of experience in recruiting and placing physicians nationwide. Through relationship development, extensive research on hospitals and their procedures, and expert knowledge on contract negotiations, she has increased new hire rates for hospitals, private practices, Indian Health Services, and government agencies. She is currently Program Manager for the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps.