Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Easy Way To Decide What Kind Of Doctor To Be--Take A Test

It is an eternal fear and frustration faced by all medical students: what kind of doctor should I be. For me it was both gut wrenching and emotionally exhausting. Though I had some inkling that I wanted to be an anesthesiologist while in medical school, I was led astray that took years of soul searching before returning to my true love and destiny. Little did I know that, though it might not have existed at the time, there is an online test to help students navigate through these treacherous waters, the Medical Specialty Aptitude Test.

Hosted by the University of Virginia School of Medicine, this test has been around for awhile. You can surf through various medical blogs and it will keep popping up time and time again. It is a nice resource that every generation of medical students, especially the current technologically astute classes, keeps coming back to. The test consists of 130 questions you answer based on how strongly you agree or disagree with a statement. Many of the questions seem to repeat themselves, such as variations on if you're a thinker or a doer. How much do you like working with people? Do you like to see immediate results? Only a few questions were truly unique, like do you enjoy research? Or are you mechanically adept?

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The test says it should take about 15 minutes to complete but I did it in less than five. I tried not to think too hard about the questions and answered what came to my head first. So here are the results. As you can see I knew myself in medical school better than I thought. The specialty that I matched best with according to the MSAT is in fact General Surgery. Surprise, surprise. In fact, of the top ten choices, five are in the surgical field. But my instincts weren't entirely baseless. Anesthesiology ranks right near the top at number four. This confirms my feelings that I still love being in the operating room. It's just the lifestyle of general surgery that I detest.

What's also interesting about my results are what's at the bottom of the list. According to the test, and the last two got cut off on this screen shot, the specialties I would be least likely to succeed and find solace in, are: Family Practice, General Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics. They were all fields that I had absolutely no intention of entering.

One specialty that I'm surprised by the ranking is Psychiatry. As I mentioned in a previous post, I loved psychiatry as a student. But here, the test ranks it fourth from last. As many students know, a good attending can make a clinical experience better than what it really is. My psych attending was excellent and made me seriously consider it as a career. Ultimately it looks like I made the right decision by not going into it.

Right now medical students all around the country are getting ready to apply for residencies to fields they hope they will like but really don't understand. It has always been a guessing game based on clinical experience, mentor's advice, and gut instinct. Here is one more resource that can serve as an aid in this life changing decision.

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