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A Career In Medicine - How To Become A Doctor. A Guide To Medical Specialities For Those Looking To Work In Medical Care

How To Become A Doctor And Why People Choose To Work In Medicine
There are lots of reasons why people think about becoming a doctor and if you are reading this article, you might be thinking of that very career. Some people have a lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. Others have family or friends who require medical assistance and decide they want to work in a role where they can help others. It could be that you have experienced a life event in the UK or overseas that has inspired you to think about becoming a medical specialist.

Whatever your reasons, if you have been wondering about how to become a doctor, the good news is, as long as you have the ability and the commitment and the desire to help people as a medical specialist, people from all walks of life can become a doctor.

The very first stage for how to become a doctor is medical school where you do an undergraduate degree. After completing this, you will do postgraduate foundation training and this is where you can start to earn some cash. You won’t need to start choosing medical specialities until your second year of foundation training so this will give you time to explore possibilities and decide where your strengths and passion lie.

As you can see below, there are lots of different career paths you can take once you become a doctor and each of the medical specialities will suit particular types of people.

Some roles will suit those of you who prefer laboratory research and decision making. Other roles will suit those of you who really want to work hands on with patients and build relationships with them. Others still will suit those of you who are keen to work with health professionals in other medical fields, perhaps working outside of the hospital.

What Are The Different Medical Specialities For A Career In Medicine?
Not everyone with a medical degree goes on to work in the NHS, but it is perhaps the most popular route to take. If you do choose to work in the NHS, there are different areas where you can specialise. Not all of these graduate medical jobs are exclusive to the NHS as some roles involve working within the community or give the opportunity to work within other organisations, go self-employed or work abroad.

The following list is the medical specialities where you could develop your career. If you are doing a medical degree and are still considering your options, you can find out more advice about what’s involved in each medical specialist role on the BMA website.

Academic Medicine
Medical jobs where you specialise in academic medicine usually mean you be jointly employed by both the NHS and a university. As well as treating patients, academic medicine also involves teaching and guiding undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as other doctors. As with other academic roles, academic medicine also involves undertaking research.

Anaesthesia
Many of us know that the role of the anaesthetist is to ensure patients are unconscious before and during surgery. However, if you choose anaesthesia as your medical specialist career path, your role will encompass much more than this. As your career progresses, you will also work with patients before and after their operations and manage resuscitation problems. Within anaesthesia, you will also have the opportunity to specialise in particular areas such as intensive care or pain management.

Emergency Medicine
A career in emergency medicine will see you dealing with a whole variety of cases on a daily basis. Specialist medical jobs in accident and emergency are high pressured but extremely rewarding for those who thrive in these types of situations.

Accident and Emergency medicine means you could be dealing with anything from serious, life threatening illnesses and injury to more minor ailments that a patient has deemed serious enough to require hospital treatment. It is down to you as an emergency medicine specialist to make quick judgements as to the nature of a patient’s state and make sure they get the correct treatment as soon as possible. This could either be immediate treatment and discharge or a decision to arrange for the patient to be admitted.

Specialist medical jobs in accident and emergency are in a fast paced environment where you will also need to show patience and be able to calm down patients who may become frustrated or violent due to long waiting times or intoxication, for example.

General Medicine Specialities
General Medicine is one of those medical fields that is actually an umbrella term for other specialist medical care jobs. If you choose to work in these medical fields, you could further specialise in areas such as cardiology, tropical medicine or dermatology, for example.

General Practice
If you want to be a frontline medical specialist when you become a doctor, then becoming a general practitioner could be the career path for you. As a general practitioner, you are generally the person who comes into first contact with a patient and you can either treat them from the surgery or refer them for hospital treatment.

Working as a general practitioner usually means you are in regular contact with particular patients and you get to know them as well as their family, too. Working in the same general practice over a number of years means you will be familiar with lots of people in the local community where you are based.

Some general practitioner roles can be on a freelancing basis where you get more control over where you work and what fees you charge for your services. Other routes can be running your own surgery or working in a surgery on a self-employed basis as a partner. As well as your medical specialist skills, being a general practitioner also often means that you will need to have some business skills; looking after admin and finances of the surgery.

Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology is the type of medical care where you can further specialise as you progress your medical training and career. If women’s health is your thing then these types of doctor jobs could be the career path for you.

Occupational Medicine
If you don’t see yourself working full time in a busy hospital but still want a career in medicine, occupational medicine might be worth your consideration. Specialising in occupational medicine means you will be looking after the health of a workforce. Depending on the size of the company, you could be working part time or full time.

Ophthalmology
Specialist medical jobs in ophthalmology are for those medicine graduates who are drawn to the care of people’s sight. You will be working with highly advanced equipment and will generally care for your patient from diagnosis to treatment and ongoing care. Unlike other medical specialities, ophthalmology careers do not necessarily require you to work closely with medical specialists in other medical fields.

Paediatrics and Child Health
Being a medical specialist in paediatrics requires more than just the treatment of children. As well as making use of your medical training and furthering your knowledge of children’s development and health issues, you will also need to have excellent communication skills.

Obviously, you will need to be able to deal with children, keeping them calm and happy whilst treating them. You will also need to be able to communicate effectively with worried parents and deal with professionals in other areas such as schools and social workers.

Pathology
Pathology is a medical field that is an umbrella term for other specialist pathology areas. Rather than being a hands on role where you are dealing with patients on a daily basis, whatever area of pathology you choose to specialise in, this is a medical field that will suit those medical graduates with an interest in combining research, laboratory work and clinical work.

The three medical specialities with pathology are:
  • 1. Chemical Pathology (also known as clinical biochemistry)
  • 2. Histopathology
  • 3. Medical microbiology and virology
Whichever medical specialities you choose to develop within pathology, you will be the person is relied upon by doctors in other medical fields to assist them with diagnosis and decision making.

Psychiatry
Psychiatry is a large area and being a medical specialist in this area can throw up a variety of fields where you could develop your career. There are six medical specialities within psychiatry:
  • 1. Adult psychiatry
  • 2. Psychiatry of old age
  • 3. Child and adolescent psychiatry
  • 4. Forensic psychiatry
  • 5. Psychiatry of learning disability
  • 6. Psychotherapy
Most medical specialist careers are about dealing with physical health issues but psychiatry will take you into the world of mental health. Mental health is often a topical subject, making news for a variety of reasons.

As a psychiatrist, as well as working directly with your patients, you will also be dealing with other professionals working within and outside of medical care. These can include mental health nurses, psychologists, carers and social workers.

Psychiatrists don’t work exclusively in hospitals. You could also be based in prisons, schools, residential homes, within a community and your patient’s home.

Public Health Medicine
Public health medicine will suit medical graduates who are looking for a varied role that could involve working with a variety of organisations around the UK. Specialist medical jobs in public health medicine mean you are looking after the health of the whole population. This could be anything from looking in to diseases to promoting healthy lifestyles.

Public health medicine will see you liaising with professionals in other medical specialities as well as professionals working in other fields such as government departments and the voluntary sector. Depending on where you want to take your career in public health medicine, this medical specialist area could also give you the opportunity to work overseas.

Radiology - Oncology
Clinical radiology and clinical oncology are the two areas within the radiology oncology medical specialities.

Clinical radiologists work with colleagues to discuss treatment of patients after a biopsy has been carried out or an interventional procedure. A specialist doctor in radiology works with doctors in other medical fields so a wide range of knowledge of the branches of medicine is necessary.

Clinical oncology is one of those doctor specialities where you will be dealing very much with your patients. Due to the nature of cancer, you will be building relationships with your patients as they will often be under your care for many years. As an oncologist, as well as working closely with your patient in non-surgical stages of their treatment, you will also be a part of the hospital team working with staff in other medical fields.

Sport and Exercise Medicine
Sport and exercise medicine will suit medical graduates who are looking to go into medical specialities that require working with professionals in other medical fields and that require a broad range of knowledge.

Sport and exercise medicine is not just about dealing with sporting injuries. It is also concerned with injury prevention and keeping athletes in peak condition. To do this, doctors specialising in sport and exercise medicine will work with physiotherapists, sports coaches, osteopaths and nutritionists.

Doctors specialising in sport and exercise medicine sometimes work in hospitals or within the but many specialists operate their own practices, work on a freelance basis or work with elite sports teams and athletes.

Surgical Specialities
Considering one of the surgical specialities as the direction you would like to take your medical career in? If surgery is to be your thing then you will need to choose which of the nine surgical specialities you wish to specialise in:
  • Cardiothoracic surgery
  • General surgery
  • Neurosurgery
  • Oral and maxillofacial
  • Trauma and orthopaedic surgery
  • Otolaryngology surgery
  • Paediatric surgery
  • Plastic surgery
  • Urology surgery
What Makes A Good Doctor?
Now you know how to become a doctor and you have an idea of the medical specialities you could work in, let’s take a look at some of the traits that make a good doctor. These are the traits that, as well as your qualifications, medical schools will be looking for when you apply. They are also the traits that will help you develop your career towards becoming a respected medical specialist.
  • Relevant academic qualifications.
  • A genuine interest in medicine that you can sustain throughout your career.
  • Ability to work as part of a team - with doctors in other medical fields and professionals in other roles.
  • Empathy - understanding the emotions of the patient and those around them as well as their medical condition.
  • Ability to work under pressure - Many medical specialist roles will require you to work long or unsociable hours. In an emergency, you will need to be able to act fast and make decisions that could save the life of a patient.
  • Organisational skills - Whatever medical specialist role you are working in, you need to be organised with time, administrative duties, prioritising of certain patients and research.
  • Excellent communication skills - A good doctor needs to be able to communicate with others in medical specialist roles. You will need to communicate to those in other professions and you will also need to be able to communicate with your patients and, where necessary, their family. Sometimes, this can be under very difficult circumstances.
What Salary Can You Expect When Working In Specialist Medical Care?
Being a medical specialist is a rewarding yet demanding career which requires a high degree of knowledge and skill that must be up to date at all times. With your title comes a salary that reflects your specialist knowledge and skill. As you begin your medical training, your starting salary will be attractive compared to that of other graduate jobs. When you start medical training as a medical specialist, your salary can rise quickly. As your career develops over the years, your salary can read six figure sums.

How Can I Progress In A Career In Medicine?
How you progress your career in medicine depends very much on the medical specialities you choose to pursue. As a GP for instance, you might go on to own your own surgery or surgeries, working with partners.

If you have specialised in academic medicine, you might go on to become a senior academic and take up a post as a professor.

As a hospital doctor, you can go on to become a consultant or senior consultant. Managerial posts can lead to becoming a director. As with many graduate careers, whether in medical fields or other sectors, the more promotions you gain, the more administrative duties are involved. There will also, of course, be more accountability.

Apply For Jobs In Medical Care And Medical Specialities
If you have done some research about how to become a doctor and realised you are already studying the wrong subjects for admittance to medical school then don’t worry. All is not lost. You can sit the relevant A-Levels or do a postgraduate course. To convince the medical school of your commitment to medicine and to becoming a doctor it could boost your application if you have some work experience in medical care. This can be entry level work that you could do in term time or the holidays.

Whatever type of role you are looking for, take a look to see if there are any medical jobs to suit you and you could soon be on the path to a successful career in medicine.

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