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How to Change Your Specialty During Residency
Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara discusses changing your specialty during residency, why you might want to do that, and the best way to go about it.
In medical school, usually during clinical rotations, students decide on a specialty. They then apply for residencies, and once they’re accepted, dive into a residency in their chosen field of study. Sometimes, though, residents find that the specialty they’ve chosen doesn’t fit. There are not really any clear statistics to indicate how often that happens, but it is more common than you might think. In fact, many physicians switch specialties at some point in their working lifetime, and with physicians becoming increasingly dissatisfied, it is probably going to become more common, not less. If you find yourself in the unenviable situation of needing to change specialties during your residency, be kind to yourself. Realistically, there is not enough time in medical school to choose a specialty thoughtfully and logically, and there’s really no way to know the day-to-day reality of a job until you are in the thick of it. As long as you take the time to strategize and create a plan, you can successfully move into a new field.

•    Recognize that you may need some support. The process of changing specialties during residency can be logistically challenging and emotionally taxing. When you decide this is something you want to do, make sure you have allies to help you during this time. It can be especially helpful to find someone who has gone through the same experience, to give you advice and help you feel more at ease. Talking to an empathetic faculty member who can give you encouragement and realizes that you can still be successful, even if in another specialty, can give you confidence. Additionally, it is good to build rapport with faculty members, because you may need letters of recommendation when you apply to your new program. It is also a worthwhile idea to speak to a faculty member or program director in your proposed new specialty. This is a good way to determine if switching to that field is really the best option, and they may be able to let you know whether or not open positions are available. 

•    Communicate with your program director as soon as possible. This is not something you should keep under your hat. Your program director needs time to fill your spot so that your shifts will be covered, and your fellow residents will not be overwhelmed by the pressure of filling in for you. You may feel nervous about approaching your director, but you may be surprised at the understanding response you receive. You won’t be your best if your heart isn’t in what you’re doing, and your program director is likely to understand that and be willing to help you decide what to do next. 

•    Prepare to apply for a new spot. Get ready to apply by building your application, gathering letters of recommendation, your medical school and residency transcripts, board scores, and a letter from your program director that indicates you are leaving in good standing. Compose a personal statement thoughtfully explaining your reasons for the change, and get colleagues from within your new field proofread it for you, to help you find the right tone. To find a new placement, start by calling programs directly, asking if they are accepting applications for a residency at your level. Ask around to see if any of your colleagues, attendings, or former classmates have heard about openings that may be a good fit for you. If you are having trouble finding the right place for you, consider doing a research year while you continue to look. Do not take a year off, as you will be unlikely to find a new residency with a gap in your resume.

•    Make the transition as smooth as you can for everyone involved. Do not change specialties in the middle of the academic year, but wait until the end of the term so that you do not disrupt the schedule and create a burden for others in the program. You don’t want to burn any bridges, so do your best to leave in good standing. Spend the final months of your time in that program going above and beyond, so that you leave on a high note. You want to build goodwill amongst your colleagues, and you also need a good recommendation from your program director. 

If you are looking for a medical school with a deep-rooted tradition of quality, look into Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. The first medical school in Latin America to offer a US-style curriculum, we are committed to cultivating future physicians who have the skills and abilities necessary to meet the challenges of personal and community health. With the best facilities in Guadalajara, state-of-the-art laboratories, and a close working relationship with many of the hospitals in the city, we are able to provide an excellent educational experience for our students both on campus and in the field. With the goal of preparing graduates for careers as physicians where they can provide individuals, families, and communities with outstanding preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic services, our medical school offers a curriculum of excellence. We prepare our students to heal and serve their community, and we encourage them to strive for innovation, academic excellence, leadership, and commitment to society. For more information about our college of medicine, call 833-220-7645 or contact us through our website. 


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