Physician Life

I haven’t had an opportunity to shadow a doctor yet, but I have a quick question for anyone who can answer my general question. I am still in undergrad but I am older and have worked in emergency medicine before, and I don’t think it’s for me anymore. Part of that reason is that the work schedule is very exhausting. I was wondering, are all specialties super time intensive. I am considering pediatrics because I love kids and I would like to spend holidays and weekends with my family. Is that unrealistic? How much choice do I have when it comes time to pick a specialty? Thanks everybody!!!

Caveat that I’m still a med student, but I’ve done a week at an outpatient peds clinic. The clinic saw patients from about 8-5, and the physicians would rotate call at the nursery for newborns. They ran 1/2 day sick-call clinic on Saturdays that also rotated. Depending on the patient load, they would end up catching up on paperwork after the last patient of the day. The guy I was with seemed like he worked about 10-12 hours/day when all was said and done.

Your choice in specialty will be dependent on your performance in school and on the board exams (Steps 1 and 2). In reality, there’s a lot of weight put on board scores, so you can have a general idea as to your chances for a specific specialty ahead of time. US grads have a pretty good chance at at least landing the specialty of their choice (assuming you don’t fail the boards and want to be a neurosurgeon), but location is the major question. Matching (finding out your residency), in a nutshell, is like you interviewing for a bunch of jobs in a variety of locations then later finding out which one you ended up with. You rank the spots you apply for, and they in turn rank all of their interviewees. Everything gets thrown into some crazy algorithm at a central processing place. Once the selection is made, you’re stuck with it.

Hello and welcome! Your schedule as an attending really depends on what type of practice you join (or start if you want to go it yourself and hang a shingle). Many primary care groups that do not do inpatient medicine have weekends/holidays off. If you have more partners you have more people that can cover when you want to go on vacation. Same goes for proceduralists, if you work for yourself/private group your schedule really depends on the contract you have with the group. If you work for the hospital there’s less, shall we say ‘wiggle room’ when it comes to call. Again it should all be stated up front in your contract. Residency sucks for everyone, it sucks for certain (ahem surgical) specialties more than others. You still rotate through different services, and they have certain schedules. Call really depends on your program. Don’t choose a specialty based on schedule, because really all schedules suck when you don’t enjoy what you’re doing.

Kennymac is correct in that once you match it’s a binding contract, but only for the year. People do change specialties after intern year. It’s not uncommon. Oh, and the testing never stops, there’s an In-service-exam that everyone takes every year of residency (specialty specific), and then boards (written/oral)when you graduate.

There is no right answer to this. Very few specialties don’t work weekends or holidays. As the lowest person on the totem pole when you join a practice, you will be doing most of the on calls and weekends. Especially if you join a practice that has admitting privileges and admits to its own service. For pediatrics, you may have to go to the hospital on weekends and holidays for new born evaluations. Emergencies happen and they are not isolated to the work week and they do not care about holidays. Patients will call. If you want to go into pediatrics then PARENTS will call. There may be a nurse that is going to be fielding the calls at first, but if it is something that needs a physician then the phone will ring.

The only specialty that I am aware of that has no on call, but you may certainly work weekends and holidays is Urgent Care. Some primary care practices may not have on call or weekends depending on their structure but depending where in the country you are this may not be the case.

If you have not even applied to medical school, I strongly discourage you from even thinking about what specialty you would like to go into. This can certainly change very quickly. You will be rotating through the different services and you will see what it is like. Shadow a doctor of various specialties, but don’t close any doors until you really see what it is like. One afternoon shadowing is not enough. A 4-6 week rotation, now that will give you a good idea.

Thank you all for the responses, they’re very helpful.