Friday, May 27, 2011

Physician Specialties <--> Specialty Physicians

This is something I'm sure I've only just begun to learn. Right now, the realm of physician specialties feels incredibly vast. There is so much variation to what you can do as a doctor, all depending on the specialty that you choose! I know that I want to be a doctor. I feel that this is what I am meant to do. But how do I go about bringing that knowledge and feeling to effect?

Obviously, everyone's personality is different. Bankers are different from pilots and comedians are (very, haha) different from accountants - believe me, I know lots of accountants... My point is, different careers demand different characteristics. If there's one thing I've learned from shadowing the small variety of physicians that I have, it's that they are all very different. The ways in which they differ can be subtle as well as glaring. Everything from bedside manner to diagnostic techniques and problem-solving approach to patience will vary from person to person and specialty to specialty. A general surgeon or cardiologist who grows to know his or her patients will probably exercise different habits than an emergency room physician who does not usually form long-term relationships with patients. A much greater importance is placed on procedural skill and manual dexterity for surgeons than for other doctors in other specialties. I would assume that the opposite is probably true of internal medicine physicians; logical deduction and skills in diagnosis would be much more highly stressed. Naturally, differences in specialty such as these would result in the attraction of very different people displaying similarly different personalities. It takes a particular type of person to go through medical school and specialize in neurology, then be completely content to analyze charts of sleep study data as a sleep specialist; most patient interaction comes when the patient is unconscious, or in the follow-up interview where those charts and tables are discussed.

The question is, with which specialty does my personality fit the best? It's one thing to want to go into a particular specialty, but I'm going to need to honestly ask myself if it fits well with my behavioral tendencies and characteristics. I'm not sure I want to form long-term relationships with patients, but not for a bad reason. The thing is, I find it very easy to care very deeply for and form relationships with other people. I worry sometimes that this will cause me to take it much harder if I lose a patient, because I will have formed a stronger bond with them. I like the idea of helping people get better and live their lives, but I feel like it might be easier to move when a patient dies if I don't allow myself the chance to get to know them as much. I'm not sure if I'm going the right way with that logic or not; perhaps the ease with which I care for people would make me a better physician, and I simply underestimate my ability to move on after the death of the hypothetical patient that I would have grown to know on a more personal level.

*Mental shake.* I'm getting way ahead of myself. After all, I haven't even gotten my MCAT scores back yet, let alone finished the application process or gotten any interviews... Eesh.

Yesterday someone asked me, "What will you do if you don't get in?" Honestly, I hadn't given it much thought yet, but I responded, "I'll apply again next year, and if I don't get in then, I'll figure it out then." Worst case scenario? I keep working and living with Nicole as she starts her first year of the nursing program while I go through the application process again - and that's not that bad of a scenario, for a worst case!

The truth is, I haven't felt this solid about a decision very often in life, so I don't give alternatives much thought. I felt (and feel) the same way about marrying Nicole as I did (and do) about following Christ; it's what I felt I should do with my life, and I will never regret it. Decisions like these come to define us, both in our own minds and in the minds of others. They're not to be made lightly, but sometimes you just know. For more reasons than you can't always articulate, you just know. I know that I want to be a Christian. I know I want to be Nicole's husband. I know I want to be a doctor. I also know that (someday) I want to be a father, but that's a topic for another post...

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