Studying medicine can take you just about anywhere and everywhere. With so many options, it can be confusing, confronting and downright scary trying to decide on ‘the’ area of medicine in which you will practise. Making the effort to explore your options can help you prepare to be ready to hit the ground running after graduation.
Try before you buy
I found the best way to decide was to broaden my horizons. As a medical student, you have plenty of opportunities to ‘try before you buy’ different areas of medicine. Dedicated clinical terms or electives are examples of how you can try different aspects of medicine within your university program. This could be a starting point for working out which areas of medicine you love and others that you dislike.
Explore on a student budget
Attending medical conferences or events that focus on your area of interest is a great way to network, meet like-minded people and get a feel for the kind of issues and topics faced in that area of medicine. Most conferences have a heavily reduced student registration fee, so make the most of it! Remember to look out for scholarships that may be able to assist funding your registration fee, travel or accommodation. Health Workforce Queensland, Rural Doctors Association of Queensland and other professional medical organisations have student subsidies and sponsoring opportunities available, so check them out.
Have a chat
Networking is a fundamental way to exploring your career options, especially if you have no idea what career path you wish to take. Talk to people who chose different career paths and find out what they love or dislike about their chosen field of medicine. Who knows, the stranger who sat next to you at the conference may be your supervisor in the next few years!
Join the club
Most medical schools that I know of have a rural health club. If you have even the faintest interest in rural medicine or are still considering your options, this is a great way to be exposed to the challenges and benefits of rural medicine. I remember attending a Joint Rural Health Club Weekend with all the rural health clubs from medical schools in Queensland. It was an absolute blast!
Get help from your friends
New junior doctors who were a cohort or two ahead of you at med school can also be a way to explore your career options. By checking in with them and seeing what it is like to work as a junior doctor and asking how they’re finding their different rotations in various areas of medicine may give you a better appreciation for that specialty or pique your interest.
Seek out wisdom
Once you have a better idea of the areas of medicine in which you are interested in, think about forming a mentoring relationship with a practising professional in that field. You may be able to organise work experience or a volunteer opportunity through your contacts with them and get a better idea of the day-to-day activities in that area.
The world is your oyster when it comes to exploring your career options in medicine whilst still a student. It is a natural and important part of forming your professional identity as a doctor and something that many established doctors are only too happy to assist you with. Take advantage of all the opportunities you have and make a few more of your own!
Dr Ghazal Ghodosi | Emergency Medicine AST, Esk