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How do medical students choose a specialty?

Posted 29 July 2014 by Guest Blogger

Have you ever wondered how a medical student decides what specialty they will be practicing in the future? Well, the "Flourish" staff thought our readers might like to peek behind the scenes and learn a little more about clinical rotations and how they can play a role selecting a medical specialty.

Before starting clinical rotations, medical students usually have earned a four-year bachelor's degree and have completed 2 years of medical school. Most of that time has been spent in a classroom attending lectures, participating in group discussions, or working on group projects. After 6 years of intensive study and preparation, one can only imagine the excitement and anticipation medical students are feeling to finally be out of the classroom and into the medical field to begin clinical rotations.

Being on rotations allows medical students to be in the work force -- observing or participating — learning firsthand what each field of medicine has to offer. It's also an opportunity for the students to get a better sense of what area they want to specialize in after they graduate.

Each rotation is usually 4 to 6 weeks long and focuses on six main areas of medicine: family practice, internal medicine, psychiatry, general surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, and pediatrics.

Typically, medical students embark on this transition with mixed feelings of anxiety for the unknown and eager anticipation to experience medicine outside the confines of the classroom. Rachel Johnson, recently completed her clinical rotations and took the time to journal her experience:

At the completion of my third year clinical rotations, I was able to appreciate the unique aspects of each field and had a stronger sense of the kind of medicine I saw myself practicing.

What piqued my interest the most was obstetrics and gynecology due to its mix of primary care and surgery, as well as the continuity of care that it provides for each patient.

During my rotation in the field, I was able to see how obstetricians/gynecologists care for patients in all stages of a woman's life, from puberty to menopause, and follow their care as they progress through these stages. I also saw patients in the clinic being assessed for obstetrical or gynecological issues and then later treated in the operating or delivery rooms.

For example, I got to follow an obstetrical patient who came into the office for severe headaches. After further assessment, she was diagnosed with preeclampsia which is a medical condition in pregnant women characterized by high blood pressure and leakage of protein in the urine. Because this condition can be fatal to both the mother and baby, the patient was then admitted to the hospital. As I rounded with my attending physician a few days later, I got to see the complications that can arise from preeclampsia and was able to follow the patient as she was rushed into the operating room for a caesarean section. That experience showed me how obstetrics and gynecology combines two aspects of medicine -- clinical work and surgery -- and made me realize that by working in this field I would be very integrated in the care for my patients.

Having this kind of continuity of care establishes a bond between physician and patient on a deep personal level which is one aspect of the field I find incredibly rewarding. After only one rotation in obstetrics and gynecology, I knew this was the field I wanted to pursue as a career.

As I progress through my final year of medical school applying for a position in an obstetrics and gynecology residency program, I feel the same kind of anticipation I had before starting my clinical rotations and look forward to another exciting journey into my medical career.

Rachel Johnson, M4
Summa Health System is dedicated to recruiting and retaining well-trained medical professionals who are committed to providing the highest quality, compassionate care to our patients, their families and to contribute to a healthier community. Learn more about us and our services and offerings.

Cheryl Johnson, M.D.
Summa Women's Health Institute
Summa Akron City Hospital
Summa Health System
Akron, Ohio


  • wrymn said: 8/3/2014 5:04 PM

    I myself have a problem choosing some specialities but this page helped me a lot hope it will help also you guys. Peace

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