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Grass is always greener.....are you happy with your choice of specialty?

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  • Grass is always greener.....are you happy with your choice of specialty?

    I'm a radiologist and I'm happy overall with my choice of specialty in medicine although at times I envy my colleagues who have more patient contact. This is somewhat funny since a big reason why I chose radiology was to have decreased pt contact! I like my interactions with pts for procedures/exams and am told that I'm good with patients by the techs and nurses so its not that I'm antisocial, I think I just prefer brief contact. I knew that this choice would prohibit me from experiencing all the front line highs and lows from getting to know pts well and getting the kudos from appreciative pts in whom you made a difference. But, it also has allowed me to skip the drug seeking, the drama kings/queens, the revolving door bunch, etc.

    I remember in med school when I was doing a surgical rotation the attending asked me what I was going into and I told him radiology. His reply was "so you don't want to work for a living?". I laughed with him but I was thinking inside "not like you're working, that's for sure". Radiology has been a good life style practice, but that has changed over the years. I used to rarely get called in the evening and overnight, now we work shifts all evening and overnight and are working nonstop during those periods.

    Radiology has been great financially and has allowed me to become FI. If I had to go back and do it all over again I think I would make the same choice, but I thought it might be interesting to hear what others thoughts are on their choice of practice. The grass is always greener but do you really wish you were on the other side of the fence?

  • #2
    Emergency medicine is the best fit for me in the house of medicine. I'm not sure what career path I would have went down if it wasn't medicine since I was set on medicine pretty early. I do enjoy the fact that it does give me a fairly solid floor for a career but there's still a lot I want to do outside of medicine. The odd hours vs. days off are a trade off that I still think is worth it. I don't want to have to practice medicine past 45 and this will give me that option. The growth and bloat of administrators and their intrusion into the practice of medicine gives me a somewhat unfavorable long term view of medicine as a whole, but again, I'll be in a position to walk away and I understand every industry has their own issues. I also don't enjoy the way many physicians treat each other with regards to patient care.

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    • #3
      I'm in a similar boat as a pathologist. Granted I'm only in my first year of practice, I got super lucky to land at a great group that's been (so far) protected from some of the financial downsides my specialty faces (PE buyout, unethical billing practices, etc.).

      I actually perform bone marrow biopsies so I get to see patients a little more than most pathologists. I do miss that part at times, but then I see my clinical colleagues deal with prior authorizations, scope creep, staffing issues, short visit appointments, etc. I knew early on that I wanted to have a little more control of my day and didn't want to deal with non-compliant patients.

      I don't remember much push back from attendings when I told them what I wanted to do. Most chuckled and gave a nod of approval indicating they wish they had done the path route. I do recall as an M4 at surgery clinic this wanna be alpha M3 was showing off for his classmates and asking me about my specialty choice and all. He asked why I wanted to do path since I wouldn't be helping people. His classmates put him in check, and I've never felt insecure about my role in the healthcare system.

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      • #4
        PM&R. Would absolutely choose it again. There are some weeds in the grass but I don’t mind them. I had no knowledge of the specialty in med school and came upon it rather serendipitously (although due to sad circumstances) and am glad I had the chance to change paths and go into it. While I don’t know if I’ll practice medicine forever, if I stop it’ll be because I want to do something else even more, and not because I don’t like my specialty/work.

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        • #5
          With General Surgery I still enjoy when things go well. When things don't, that's taken more of a toll than I expected. I could probably trudge through for 10 more years if I had to, but there's a reason why I'm going part time after getting FI. I don't regret choosing the specialty though.

          I couldn't picture myself doing anything else in medicine as a physician. I would probably enjoy being a first assist more as I love operating but hate the stress and worry of complications or poor outcomes.

          If not medicine, I'd probably be doing something with my hands. I really enjoyed volunteering for habitat for humanity and 'helping' build houses.

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          • #6
            Different strokes for different folks. Medicine is SO BROAD and room for almost anyone of all personalities and preferences.

            As said to med students/residents -- choose the area that stokes you to the core - the money will take care of itself. If there's a poor physician, it's more so poor spending/savings choices than choice of profession.

            That said, there is a significant disparity between thought driven care v procedural driven reimbursement (but very different subject) --- I do believe my fellow surgeons earn every penny.

            If one is thinking grass greener some other specialty - not greener, but maybe better fit and the underlying 'why' chose in the first place.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Nysoz View Post
              With General Surgery I still enjoy when things go well. When things don't, that's taken more of a toll than I expected. I could probably trudge through for 10 more years if I had to, but there's a reason why I'm going part time after getting FI. I don't regret choosing the specialty though.

              I couldn't picture myself doing anything else in medicine as a physician. I would probably enjoy being a first assist more as I love operating but hate the stress and worry of complications or poor outcomes.

              If not medicine, I'd probably be doing something with my hands. I really enjoyed volunteering for habitat for humanity and 'helping' build houses.
              I completely agree with this, and even more so with my specialty, vascular surgery. Too many bad or suboptimal outcomes. Call not that busy, but almost always a disaster if you need to go in. Endovascular aneurysm repair aside, massive adoption of new technology that doesn't necessarily improve results (but easier on surgeon). Unfortunately, biology always wins. Twenty years was enough. Fortunately we had reached FI and I could stop working. I don't regret the career choice, but if I was to do it again, I might go with anesthesia or maybe a different surgical speciality such as urology or ENT.

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              • #8
                For the 35 yrs I did cardiology it was never boring and tremendous advances over those yrs were exciting and engaging. The only grass is greener moments came during the stress of call but I really wouldn't have chosen another specialty. I'm glad it's over though as it took it's toll and I didn't have anything left to give.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by dennis View Post
                  For the 35 yrs I did cardiology it was never boring and tremendous advances over those yrs were exciting and engaging. The only grass is greener moments came during the stress of call but I really wouldn't have chosen another specialty. I'm glad it's over though as it took it's toll and I didn't have anything left to give.
                  Substitute Anesthesiology for Cardiology and these are my exact thoughts. I liked the fact that most actions taken gave fairly immediate results, I.e. you knew if things got better or worse for the patient with minimal delay. Ended up with call-induced burnout but left about 10 years ago. A part-time, low stress, no-call out-patient position found me. Not quite retired yet but getting close to the end.

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                  • #10
                    10 years in EM.

                    i definitely view my role as totally different than when i was a student/resident
                    then: resuscitationist/proceduralist/general bada$$
                    now: acute care semi-internist, provider of reassurance, coordinator of hospital resources

                    i love my job.

                    i think i would have been pretty happy in anesthesiology as well.

                    oddly enough i suspect i also would have come to enjoy a more clinic based specialty. my academic work pushes me closer to 9-5 than 99% of EM docs and i enjoy reassurance and pt education more than anything else.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Nysoz View Post
                      With General Surgery I still enjoy when things go well. When things don't, that's taken more of a toll than I expected. I could probably trudge through for 10 more years if I had to, but there's a reason why I'm going part time after getting FI. I don't regret choosing the specialty though.

                      I couldn't picture myself doing anything else in medicine as a physician. I would probably enjoy being a first assist more as I love operating but hate the stress and worry of complications or poor outcomes.

                      If not medicine, I'd probably be doing something with my hands. I really enjoyed volunteering for habitat for humanity and 'helping' build houses.
                      100% the things not going well, it grinds on you. Agree about the first assist, how amazing would that be. Just operating, no clinic, no call or complications related to that.

                      I could otoh see myself doing other things as I find so many things interesting. At times I really wish I would have understood the power dynamics a bit better and gone into a specialty like ortho that has more ability to call their shots and get concessions from the hospital.
                      EM-I like from a lifestyle perspective and crushing it ability early on, but not a fan of the actual work.
                      And then totally different fields like banking, etc...I would have liked. At least theres some payoff for that crazy hard work in the beginning.
                      Probably several others even. Especially ones that allow you to work more or expand roles, anesthesia, etc...

                      Medicine is otherwise incredibly linear, and I seriously was ignorant of the physicality of surgery as a youngster.
                      Last edited by Zaphod; 06-09-2021, 03:12 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Ha, I love thought experiments like this.

                        I don't care for the practice of any medicine/surgery that I have seen--although I dislike EM, I dislike all the other specialties more! I often wonder if any job/career would have made me long-term happy.

                        But then I realize that I love my life...so I guess I picked good enough...and this is not even accounting for the fact that I'm on the upslope near the mid-life/nadir of the happiness curve! Wowzers!

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                        • #13
                          Psychiatry. I love it! I could have been happy doing sports medicine too but I really love just talking to patients. My job has made me a better person for sure. If not medicine, architecture/design. But I like the straightforward path you follow in medicine. Just follow the steps and you know where you'll end up.

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                          • #14
                            I think I could have enjoyed the other end of the body (urology). But happy I chose what I did.

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                            • #15
                              If I had to pick a medical specialty again, I'd still go with pathology. It just fits me the best of everything I was exposed to. my second choice was general internal medicine, and I think that would have worked out as well, but I just don't have the physical stamina for the surgical specialties.

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