How to Plan for a Medical Career

On completion of your undergraduate studies and at the beginning of the Foundation Years, there appears to be a bewildering choice of medical career options available.  In the hospital medical specialties there are over 50 different specialties to choose from!

As a starting point, it may be useful to consider the following factors which apply to your own personality, skills and qualities:

  • Your own strengths and weaknesses
  • Your abilities, skills and interests
  • The type of patients you see yourself working with
  • Do you see yourself in a hospital or community setting?
  • What sort of colleagues would you like to work with
  • The overall length of training to CCT
  • The opportunities for research?
  • Work/Life balance
  • The age of the patients
  • Do you want direct patient contact at all?
  • Do you want to treat patients holistically or be very specialised?
  • Do you like interventional procedures e.g. endoscopy or cardiac catheterisation?
  • Look at the competition and availability of the posts
  • You may want less-than-full-time training or a shared job
  • Do you fell comfortable dealing with uncertainty?
  • Are you attracted to a multidisciplinary team?
  • Would you enjoy supporting other specialists e.g. in radiology
  • Salary prospects
  • How your specialty might develop over the next 10 years
  • Work intensity

Several excellent websites are available to help in your self-assessment and choice:

What are the steps in choosing a career?
One system which has been proposed is the REDI model:

Review you experience, skills and qualities
Explore the specialties which attract you
Implement your application

It is essential to look carefully at your own abilities and personal qualities before choosing a specialty.  Academic ability is only one factor and you may have valuable feedback from appraisal or your e-portfolio and assessments from your trainers in the Foundation Programme.

Where do you get information for the exploration phase?
There are many ways to get information about future careers:

  • Network with the undergraduates of Foundation Trainees above you to learn their experiences and gain their advice on specialties
  • Visit the websites above and the Royal Colleges websites
  • Organise a short taster in a specialty which interests you
  • Request a 4 month rotation in a specialty which interests you during your Foundation programme
  • Attend the undergraduate and postgraduate careers fairs or events
  • Speak to your UG teachers or professors, clinical supervisors and arrange a meeting with the Heads or Deputy Heads of School through NIMDTA.  These names are on the Specialty Schools pages of the NIMDTA website