Choosing a specialty
When and why do medical students choose their future specialty, asks John Rees
The recent changes in UK postgraduate medical training were partly designed to help medical students and recent graduates with their career choices. The aims have been to broaden early experience and to design core training programmes. However, the uncertainties produced by these changes, the difficulties surrounding applications and selection processes, and worries about job availability have increased anxiety among medical students. Ranking of students in the selection processes has raised interest in marks, created worries about the comparability of assessments, and increased competitiveness.
Undergraduate medical programmes aim to produce graduates capable of training in any branch of the profession, although intercalated degrees and student selected components may allow them to explore more specialised non-core interests. Some students enter medical school with a strong idea of their eventual career path. These ideas may have come from personal or family experiences of illness or role models or from the media. Such preferences