The One Question.

I am approaching my last shift for the medical year, the end of my second year out of med school.

Some of my friends are leaving, or have already left. We are now getting to the time when careers take everyone in different directions. It’s like the end of high school, but so much worse because at least then I didn’t know so many of them, or their goals, or dreams, or anything in their lives. The group of people you go through medical school with, and the group you work with in medicine over the first few years, become something of a family. I’m just worried reunions with my Med-Family are going to be tough.

I am staying at the same hospital. Partly because other options haven’t formalised enough yet, but also partly because this is the easiest option. This hospital, however much flack it gets in the community, is a good hospital and it has also been good to me and I’ve been given some decent rotations for the year.

But I am already at the point where everyone asks the one question asked of all medical students and junior doctors:

“What are you going to do? What do you want to specialise in?”

Because medical school isn’t enough of an achievement.

Because you must surely have your entire career path mapped out before you even apply for medical school.

And because half-a-handful of hospital work is more than adequate for gaining enough experience in a wide variety of specialties to be able to predict what will suit you and your lifestyle until your retirement in 30 to 100 years.

Bee tee dubs, “No Freaking Idea” doesn’t really go down well I’ve learnt. (And I don’t swear that often, so it’s not like I say anything more colourful).

I admire those of my friends, and I try not to be jealous of the medical students I meet, who have already decided and can emphatically, enthusiastically answer with their dream specialty.

My journey through all of this has been a bit odd, with my top choice changing regularly:

Pre-med: ?maybe Cardiology, or Neurology. Because they look interesting, complicated, and I wanted the challenge.
First yr med school: It’s all interesting… Cardio and Neuro top choices though because (a) minimal time to consider the one question, and (b) nothing had jumped out at me yet.
Second yr: Maybe Obstetrics/Gynaecology. Something less challenging.
Third yr: NFI. Questioning whether career of ‘Doctor’ was even a good choice to begin with.
Fourth yr: GP; it’s a specialty too. People often ask it as “What are you going to specialise in, or are you going to be just a GP?”.
Internship / Post Graduate Year 1: “GP” But then I didn’t get on the training program.
Resident / PGY2: Initially “?GP” (Still didn’t get on program); Maybe ED (didn’t take long to realise I liked the team I worked with); Later in the year – NFI. I have enjoyed each rotation for different reasons, and I like the paperwork and ward work, but I can see the parts of each rotation I know I would not be able to remain enthusiastic about in the long haul.

And from Monday I begin ‘Resident / PGY3’ with, still, no solid idea.

Ultimately, I have come to a conclusion about something. I’ve decided that instead of responding with “NFI”, or the long-version, or the pessimistic I’ll never find it/please don’t ask me/I’d honestly be happy as a resident forever…

Theory #13: If you lack an answer, better be bold and ask instead the Questioner’s opinion.

…my new response to The One Question will be, with a smile,

“What specialty do you see me in?”

– Dr O.



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