When I wrote about why I chose anesthesiology as a career a few years ago, I received a few criticisms from readers complaining that I didn't actually choose anesthesiology. Instead I had settled on the field after eliminating all the other possibilities. Did I really become an anesthesiologist because I liked it or was it because I didn't like anything else?
In this month's issue of the ASA Monitor, the editor, Dr. N. Martin Giesecke writes about how he became an anesthesiologist (membership required). His path to his career epiphany was very similar to mine. However he had a little head start down that path since his father was also an anesthesiologist. Yet as a medical student he experienced different medical fields that made him think about other possibilities but ultimately led him to his current profession.
Dr. Giesecke related his admiration for pediatrics. However he didn't have the stomach for taking care of so many small helpless patients. Then he did a rotation in surgery, his first choice in medical school. Though he contemplated going into plastic surgery, the environment he encountered was off putting. He was disgusted by the hostile work environment and mental and physical abuse of the trainees, students and residents alike. That story sounds very familiar.
As part of his surgery rotation, he also did a few weeks in anesthesiology. That's when he realized how awful the surgeons are to their underlings and to each other. Anesthesiology by comparison was pleasant and collegial yet still academic and patient oriented. It was easy to make a decision at that point.
So as you can see, there is not one track to becoming an anesthesiologist. Everybody has a different story on how they made their career choice. Very few people actually decide from day one they're going to become anesthesiologists and not alter their plans. And that's okay. It's like serial dating. You Tinder a few specialties and finally settle on the right one for you.