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How can I pick between 3 specialties I really want to do?

I start my first year of Physician Assistant school this fall. I already know I'm interested in pediatrics, behavioral health, and oncology. How can I decide what to do between those 3? #healthcare #medicine #college #medical #pediatrics #psych #oncology #physicianassistant

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Kim’s Answer

Alexandra,

Do you have to specialize, or, are you just trying to figure out where to work once you are done?

If you like Pediatrics, you could go into Pediatric Behavioral Health or Pediatric Oncology.

Before you do that, you might want to try to get some shadowing experience. In pediatrics, your patient is the child, but, you must deal with the parents, which, sometimes adds a bit of a challenge to what you are trying to do.

Also ask yourself if you are prepared emotionally, for dealing with terminal illness. If it is something you've been around, you might be okay, otherwise, again , try to get some exposure.

I would caution you away from making decisions before you must - careers and education have a way of taking unexpected turns, sometimes in the form of opportunities.

Good luck!
Kim
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Anthony’s Answer

Hi,

The easy answer to our question is an experience! You can read and talk about many different specialties for hours, but ultimately nothing will substitute itself for the true experience. I know many pharmacists who had one interest during school, which changed after gaining hands-on experience during pharmacy school and residency training. You need to list all your interests and do your best to gain exposure in these areas throughout your schooling. It often does not need to be significant exposure. As you may have realized throughout your life, it usually does not require considerable time to know you dislike or love something.

Additionally, you mention three specialties. However, these are not all mutually exclusive. For example, it is not unlikely to gain experience in pediatric oncology or pediatric behavioral health. Or perhaps behavioral health in pediatric oncology patients.
Suppose you know anyone interested in your fields, whether professionals or students like yourself, you should speak to them about gaining exposure in these fields. Many professionals are honored to help and teach the next generation of students in their areas. Don’t hesitate to take opportunities that come to you to gain exposure.

Also, don’t feel bad or be hard on yourself if you find something you once had an interest in isn’t for you. Finding you dislike something you once had an interest in at an early stage should be exciting because it helps you become closer to finding your true passion and hones your focus.
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Giavanna’s Answer

First off, congratulations! Getting into PA school is a huge accomplishment! The beauty of being a PA is that you don't necessarily have to stick with one specialty. You can spend time in each specialty of interest and from there choose what suits you the best to stay in long-term. You can also use your clinical rotations as an opportunity to explore each area.
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Tom’s Answer

I would suggest that you actually go and observe what each specialist does. That will give you a very clear picture a distinct impression as to what's involved with that particular field.
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Vernie’s Answer

Doing research, shadowing someone who has a specialty in that specific field can help. I think this is something that you can also experience during your clinical rotations for school.

Goodluck!
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Raquel’s Answer

You'll get some experience during your clinical rotations during school. If you don't get specific experience that helps you decide within your program, you can always try and shadow people within those three specialties to try and decide. Either you'll get important experience while in school to help you decide.
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