By Adelle, Medical Student
I went into my third year with a somewhat open mind in terms of what I thought I liked and what I thought I wanted to do for the next 35 years or so of my life. Internal medicine interested me because you had to know so much about, well, so much. I felt like my brain was getting bigger every day I was on my internal medicine rotation—there was just so much to know! The number of patients you can see is also fairly high on a typical internal medicine service. On the other hand, I had completely discounted general surgery—I was never very interested in anatomy class and didn’t particularly enjoy teasing apart membranes from fascia from blood vessels and nerves. The thought of doing that for the rest of my life didn’t sit well with me. But, nevertheless, I went in with an open mind.
That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned during third year: go with the flow and you might learn something along the way. I have tried my best to approach each rotation with a sense of curiosity. No matter how much I thought I would dread it, I gave it a fair shot. The hospital where you are placed and who you work with can of course play a role in your impression of a specialty overall, but I have tried my best to be open minded. There is always something to take away from a rotation, even if if is not your favorite. For example, I was pretty certain that I was not going to choose psychiatry as a career. Even so, I learned so much on the rotation that can be applied to many other fields: how to calm someone down, how to assess if someone is a threat to themselves or others, and how to make your own safety a priority in any situation. These are lessons that I can carry elsewhere as well: in the emergency room, in the OR, in the family practice setting. It doesn’t always have to be the medicine itself that is interesting to you, but picking up clinical pearls will go a very long way. These things will help you shine on any rotation, and the preceptor will almost always notice. No one wants a student who doesn’t want to be there—try to look interested!
As for me, I ended up falling in love with general surgery. I would have chosen it as a career had it not been for a few lifestyle caveats. I loved everything about surgery: the way the OR ran like a well-oiled machine, the adrenaline just before that first incision, the excitement in the middle of the surgery, and the satisfaction after closing for a job well done. I’m not a huge fan of the clinic, so the fact that clinic days were quick and easy on surgery was a bonus. It all pointed to the fact that I was cut out to be a general surgeon. The only things that held me back were the long, long hours and times on call. But at the very least I knew that surgery had to be a part of whatever field I chose. That’s why I’m happy to share that I have decided on OB/GYN! It has surgery, the perfect amount of outpatient medicine, and excitement in the form of labor and delivery. It too can have long hours, but from what I’ve seen, those can be balanced out with shorter clinic days. As I mentioned earlier, I was originally thinking about internal medicine, even as I was just starting medical school. Once I actually completed my rotation, my opinion of it had changed. It offers a very nice lifestyle, but my personality simply wasn’t for that field. That is completely okay!
Each rotation and every opportunity in medical school is golden for learning, if you know what to look for. I had to figure out how to do this, but I think I’ve gotten better at it as time goes on. Much of medicine is dealing with different personalities on daily basis, so the earlier you can learn to do this, the better you will be able to adapt to any situation. Learning how to get along with different people and in different environments may very well lead you to spark an interest in a specialty you don’t expect, or at least allow you to gain some wisdom from the experience. Learning can happen anywhere regardless of how imperfect the situation might seem.
About the Author
Adelle is a 3rd year medical student who loves to hike, bake chocolate chip cookies, and doodle on the corners of papers.