Most students go to medical school because they want to care for patients in the traditional sense. This includes physical exams, following up on labs, making treatment decisions, and a whole lot more.
Unfortunately, most medical schools don’t promote Pathology as much as they should. It’s not part of the core rotation curriculum during your junior year, and if you want to see what a pathologist actually does, you’ll need to set a block of time aside for an elective rotation as a senior student. Despite this, I do think that people are catching on.
If you haven’t given pathology some serious consideration, here is why you should:
1. No Patient Contact
You get to work with people, it’s just that they are other doctors. You are the “doctor’s doctor.” There is no rounding, no morning CBC to follow up on, no SOAP notes, and no physical exams at 5:30 am. Pages from the nursing staff are eliminated. Did that chest X-ray not get done this morning even though it was written for? Not your problem.
2. Good Hours During Residency
You can sit back and really appreciate a normal work day even during residency in most pathology training programs. As Panda Bear mentions, pathology comes very close to 40 hour work weeks even during training. Outside of dermatology and perhaps opthalmology, this is pretty hard to come by.
3. The Money Is Great
Pathologists get paid extremely well, especially considering the amount of time that they work. Salary data is from the Modern Healthcare Physician Compensation Review [PDF], and includes several data sources per specialty. According to the image to your right, the average annual salary for pathology is $254,398.
4. Almost No Call
What little call you’ll experience in pathology can all be done from home. I’ve never talked to any pathology attending or resident who has to take in-house call. The work just doesn’t require it. The dreaded “q3 call” won’t even be in your vocabulary, and you’ll cringe as you see residents in other specialties getting killed by a brutal call schedule.
5. Laid Back Work
Where else can you spend every other day or so with a nice cup of coffee getting your work done as you look into a microscope? Need to look something up or do some reading? You have time. None of the residents in pathology that I’ve ever spoken to relayed any feelings of being “rushed” or “not having enough time to complete work.” The work is laid back, and so are the people that go into pathology to begin with.
Don’t Give In To Stereotypes
I think too many medical students see pathology as a “weird” specialty. Students have been stereotyping specialties ever since they began medical school. As mentioned earlier, students don’t see pathology for what it is, but instead look at it as “nontraditional medicine.”
Don’t give in to these stereotypes and feel that you have to practice traditional medicine in order to be a physician. See specialties for what they are, and realize that you too can have a good life.
Don’t always try to read between the lines. The writing is on the wall.