second guessing residency choice

Hi Guys: apologies if this is mentioned somewhere, but I just spent the last hour looking at all threads here and in the residency/fellowship forums.

So…I haven’t posted on here in awhile, this place was where I got my motivation to begin my journey as a non-trad to medicine. I am now a 4th year, 2 months from graduating, and have successfully matched! I know, I am excited, and should be more so…but I am having an issue that I was hoping perhaps I could get some advice/guidance on.

At the end of 3rd year there comes a time where a medical student must make the biggest decision of his/her life…and I cannot begin to say how big this was for me and how I struggled so very much with it and honestly probably never really knew for certain what specialty to pick… my school has us all scattered for 3rd and 4th years in diff locations and offers no guidance and has no program directors or a teaching hospital assoc with it (D.O. program). I hesitantly chose psychiatry because it was something that I honestly thought would give me the best satisfaction for the long-term…not looking just the fun/thrill of things while i’m still relatively young…I had reservations about it, and honestly I probably should have just applied to transitional years/prelim programs b/c honestly I really have never felt at peace about it or anything really… I’ve learned a lot about myself this 4th year and seen many different specialties and environments and honestly wasn’t ready to make the decision at that time…but what’s done is done… I want to be happy about my decision so badly; perhaps it’s just “the grass is greener” feeling I have when i’m on other rotations like radiology (currently) or have other friends so excited to be going off to their programs of choice, but I just keep second guessing myself.

Honestly, I probably second guess most things in life, but this feels so huge b/c it’s such a monumental decision…I feel like you have to choose the RIGHT thing now b/c there’s a long painful road if you want to change…unlike mid-level positions where you can change jobs on the dime…not so when you’re talking about another residency…I know the future is bright in psych and I can likely help many people who greatly need it…but I just can’t get out of this funk right now…any advice/guidance from this wonderful group of experienced folks? Thanks so much, you have been wonderful throughout all these years and helped me become a physician…I humbly come to you for advice.

I don’t have much advice to give, since I still have over a year before I have to make a choice. But one of my favorite bloggers switched residencies (from pediatrics to anesthesia), and she made it sound like it wasn’t too heinous:

(If you get a chance to read her book – which is hilarious – she goes into more detail about making the switch.)

I’ve also heard anecdotes from attendings at my school as well – my school organizes a series of panel talks on all the different specialties, and a number of them have included panelists who have switched specialties (including one guy who finished his IM residency, worked for a few years, and then decided to go back and do a residency for general surgery). So I guess my point is, it’s not unheard of to switch residencies.

Good luck with your decision!

You do have the ability to change residencies however, you will have to go through the match again and you will have to come up with a reason as to why you want to change residencies. In addition, there is no guarantee that any of the time that you have already put in will count towards the new residency. So you may be extending your residency for a little bit. The best thing to do is to ask people about what they like about their program and the field they have chosen.

The intern on my current service changed residencies after he matched, but he had to do a TRI and reapply. There was no guarantee he would get into anything. Maybe you should think about why you didn’t choose any of the other specialties over psych. Go over each one , maybe it was lifestyle or maybe the practice style (inpatient vs outpatient) etc… Maybe if you can identify a dealbreaker in why you didn’t chose the other specialties it can make you feel better. I’ve talked to some 4th years at my school and the feeling you’re describing isn’t really uncommon. It’s like a denouement moment, you’ve accomplished what you set out to accomplish (we’re so focused on just getting through medschool) that now you’re faced with THE REST OF LIFE and it’s overwhelming, and in some ways underwhelming too. There’s still residency to slog through after all. I hope you figure things out. All the best to you!

Thanks everyone! Update

I bit the bullet and…after lots of prayer, talks with mentors, and the green light from my wife–I decided to go for broke and re-apply through ERAS to another specialty. My program director was so supportive, and I was able to successfully match into a different field this past spring on Match Day! It wasn’t easy, and I am having to re-do an intern year basically-- but in the end it paid off.

Advice to future upcoming 4th years, do your best to try and narrow things down as much as you can by this time. I know that it’s not easy, and it’s certainly a huge decision that I wish I would have been able to make earlier in the process; however, timing of rotations did not make that possible. It took my 4th year of med school to truly discover the field of medicine that I wanted to practice. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Going on interviews during intern year certainly was a challenge and took some creativity, but it worked out!

Definitely not advocating that others bail on their specialty, but if you’re like me and really had buyer’s remorse, it’s possible!

Best of luck to all out there!!

Glad it worked out for you. Good luck with your new residency program!