Which medical specialty is the hardest?

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Updated on Sep 2, 2019 10:46 IST

The field of medical science comprises many specialties and super specialties. However, a handful that are among the toughest and most challenging, requiring special skillset.

The second year of studying medical programme is one of the most challenging, exciting and rewarding phases of the college. This is the year when students begin to consider which medical speciality they are going to opt for as their career. However, there are certain specialities that are more challenging as well as most in demand compared to the others. These can be categorised as competitive, moderately competitive and less competitive.

Most competitive medical specialties

Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery: Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery is involved in the surgical treatment of organs in the thorax or the chest. It generally treats the disease related to the lungs and heart. 

Dermatology: A dermatologist is a medical expert who can be consulted in case of problems related to skin, hair and nail.  It involves, but is not limited to research, study and diagnosis of disorders, cancers, diseases, cosmetic surgeries and ageing associated with fat, hair, nails, skin along with oral and genital membranes.

Apart from that, dermatology also includes their treatment and management by various therapies and investigations comprising of but not limited to topical, systemic treatments, dermatologic operations and cosmetic surgeries, phototherapy, laser treatment, immunotherapy, photodynamic treatment and radiotherapy. 

Neurosurgery: Neurosurgery is the medical field that relates to diagnosis, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of disorders occurring in the nervous system comprising the spinal cord, brain, extra-cranial cerebrovascular system and peripheral nerves. 

Orthopedic Surgery: Orthopaedic surgery or orthopedics is the medical branch of surgery concerned with the musculoskeletal system. Orthopaedic surgeons apply both surgical and nonsurgical techniques for curing musculoskeletal trauma, sports injuries, diseases related to the spinal cord, infections, congenital disorders and tumors.  

General Surgery:  It is a surgical specialisation which focuses on abdominal organs such as the stomach, small and large intestines, pancreas, liver, appendix, gallbladder, bile ducts, appendix, esophagus along with the thyroid gland entirely depending on the local referral patterns. They also deal with skin and breast diseases along with trauma, hernias, soft tissues, peripheral vascular operations along with performing endoscopic processes like colonoscopy and gastronomy. 

Plastic Surgery:  It is a surgical specialisation dealing with the reconstruction, modification and restoration of the body. It is categorised into two important categories: cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery. Cosmetic or aesthetic surgery aims to enhance the appearance of the body while reconstructive surgery restructures the part of a body or enhances its functioning. Reconstructive surgery comprises of surgeries related to hand, microsurgeries, curing of burns and craniofacial surgery.

Otolaryngology: Otolaryngology refers to the surgical subspecialty which deals with the diseases related to nose, throat and ear and associated structures of head and neck. Doctors who are specialized in this field are known as Otolaryngologists or ENT surgeons. Patients seek treatment from the ENT specialists for the diseases related to nose, ear, throat and base of the skull and regarding the operations of benign tumors of neck and head and cancers.

Ophthalmology:  It is a medical branch related to surgery and diagnosis of disorders of eyes. Ophthalmologists specialize in Ophthalmology. They use medications for treating the eyes, implementing laser therapy and performing surgeries whenever it is required.

Various challenging fields are compared below to analyze which medical specialty is the hardest amongst them:

Dermatology and Plastic surgery

Dermatology, when compared with plastic surgery, has differences. With regards to training, a plastic surgeon has to undergo a minimal period of six years of training whereas dermatologist undergoes an average of four years of training. Plastic surgeons have to undergo a formal training procedure in surgeries about head and neck, ophthalmology and orthopedic surgery. Dermatologists work mostly in their clinics. 

So, plastic surgery is a more challenging medical specialty as compared to dermatology.

Neurosurgery and Orthopaedic Surgery

According to the data revealed by the National Residency Matching Programme in 2017, 165 programmes were offering 727 positions in the first year of Orthopaedic surgery whereas 107 programmes were offering 218 positions in the first year of Neurosurgery. So, Neurosurgery had less than one-third of the number of openings as compared to Orthopaedic Surgery.

The Orthopaedic surgeons look after the nerves of the whole musculoskeletal system. They perform operations related to repairing of nerves in limbs. The Neurosurgeons, on the other hand, operate bone grafts like spinal fusions.  They also operate inside the skull, unlike Orthopaedic surgeons.

Neurosurgery involves long hour surgeries for deep-seated tumors which might take up to 12 hours while orthopedic surgery can hardly pass four hours.  

So, neurosurgery is difficult to pursue as compared to orthopedic surgery.

General Surgery and Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery

General surgeons treat a wide range of ailments which require surgeries. They often execute routine procedures like removing gallbladder or appendectomies. But sometimes they also perform more complicated operations about digestive, endocrine and digestive systems.  During the term of five years after obtaining the medical degree, the surgeons attain the skill of dealing with the medical conditions associated with skin, breast, abdominal wall, etc.

On the other hand, Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery deals with the operational management, critical and perioperative care of the pathological conditions in the chest of patients. It is a type of surgical specialty for the treatment of cardiac diseases related to coronary arteries, lung cancers, abnormalities of the heart valves and great vessels, etc. 

It requires in-depth knowledge and expertise of oncology and cardiac physiology along with the ability to utilize cardiac assist devices, extracorporeal circulation and other diagnostic techniques.  Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery residency requires 4-6 years of training after completing medical school. Although, General surgery involves a diversity of cases but Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery is much more complicated and is a medical specialty requiring expertise and knowledge to treat cardiac disorders.

Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology

An Otolaryngologist treats patients having disorders related to ears and upper alimentary and respiratory systems. He has an in-depth knowledge of diseases related to head, neck, communication science, the chemical senses and endocrinology as they are associated with head and neck. 

On the other hand, Ophthalmology which deals with the disorders and curing of eye-related diseases is a much less stressful medical specialty as compared to its contemporaries. It involves fewer emergencies as it is a combines office-based cares and surgeries as informed by Dr. Robert L. Peets, DO who is the director of AOA-approved Ophthalmology residency situated in Dayton, Ohio, at Grandview Hospital and Medical Centre.

Also, here’s a list of other specialties.

Moderately competitive specialties include:

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Anaesthesiology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Pediatrics/Medicine (Combined)

Less competitive specialties include:

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This is a collection of news and articles on various topics ranging from course selection to college selection tips, exam preparation strategy to course comparison and more. The topics are from various streams inclu... Read Full Bio

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Si di

2 years ago

What is a one year course / program in medicine after MBBS to do it from us/ Canada/ Australia and Uk . Self paying or scholarship.

Reply to Si di

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