Medical Specialty Stereotypes (11 Popular Ones)

medical specialty stereotypes

What do you know about medical specialty stereotypes?

Regardless of the field you want to specialize in; you’d come across these stereotypes along your medical journey.

People carry many ideologies for individuals wanting to become neurosurgeons, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, or any type of doctor.

Medical specialty stereotypes are popular beliefs and opinions that specialists in a particular field portray traits that make them ideally suited for that role.

And in this guide, you will learn all the popular specialty beliefs and whether it holds for today’s doctors.

What does Medical Specialty Stereotype mean?

Have you ever considered a soft-hearted person to be ideally suited for cardiology? Or the opinion that medical students who aren’t very strong in studies should venture into family medicine?

All these ideologies are the stereotypes people create to make a medical specialty seem the best fit for a particular trait or circumstance.

Medical specialty stereotypes are conventional beliefs people carry about a particular medical field. People hold superstitious beliefs that people with certain behaviors should enter the medical field.

However, you should know that these stereotypes are not facts backed by research. They’re suggestions and popular opinions that can help you choose which medical specialty to do your residency and become your best self.

Let’s dive in.

1. Family Medicine

When patients complain about themselves or their families, they usually meet family medicine doctors.

Unlike internal medicine, family medicine’s primary goal is to care for a specific type of patient- children, women, and adults. This field provides comprehensive healthcare and solves medical problems that families experience.

Doctors who specialize in this field are primary care physicians or family physicians. In some countries, you’ll be a general practitioner.

Family medicine and internal medicine are similar in training due to the same number of years you’d spend in residency (3-years). However, the difference is that it focuses more on outpatient therapy, health maintenance, and methods of preventing diseases.

Family medicine physicians primarily provide medications, advice, and treatments to patients who are not in the hospital. However, they also treat some inpatient medical problems relating to gynecology and musculoskeletal issues.

The medical specialty stereotype in family medicine is that it’s the perfect area for students with low USMLE step scores who do not want to tough competition before getting into residency.

Physicians who match usually have lower board scores compared to fields like neurosurgery and cardiology. The work profile is also less demanding and has lower salaries than others.

However, some intelligent medical students choose family medicine solely because it’s their passion to care for families. This field may be perfect if you love helping families solve medical problems.

2. Internal Medicine medical specialty stereotypes

Internal medicine specialty deals more with inpatients compared to family medicine.

Here, you learn all the essential information a primary care physician requires to help solve general medical problems.

It’d also form the foundation for subspecialties like cardiology, endocrinology, infectious diseases, rheumatology, etc.

Most medical professionals regard internal medicine as the default specialty owing to its flexibility. This is because you must pass through 3-years of internal medicine residency before delving into your dream roles like:

  • Cardiology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Endocrinology
  • Hematology
  • Medical oncology
  • Pulmonology
  • Nephrology
  • Geriatrics
  • Rheumatology
  • Allergy and Immunology
  • Sports medicine  

The medical stereotype for internal medicine is that it’s the default before specializing into further training like cardiology and nephrology.

If you love applying all the physiology and pathology you learned in medical school to real-life applications, then internal medicine might be the right choice.

Internal medicine specialists are primarily intelligent physicians who prefer using their wealth of medical knowledge to solve problems rather than the actual act (surgery).

They love giving out their information and can spend plenty of hours discussing diseases and providing diagnoses and solutions.

They’re usually with a team of other specialists with whom they discuss medical problems using their already-learned knowledge.

They typically spend a long time with patients to understand their ailments and provide the best solutions.

Finally, if you don’t like dealing with blood like surgeons, choose internal medicine for peace of mind.

3. Radiology

Do you have a flair for computers and technology and considering the best medical specialty to choose? Radiology might be your answer!

The stereotype about this field is that it’s mostly for medical students who love computing and prefer solving medical problems asides from interacting with the patient.

The stereotype also places radiology as an area for medical students who don’t want doctor-patient interaction.

Radiologists are mostly confined to the walls of their reading rooms, where they take electromagnetic images like MRI, CT, and other types of scans.

4. Anesthesiology

One of the most popular medical specialty stereotypes about anesthesiologists is that they’re lazy doctors. And this can be pretty true because their work involves stabilizing patients during surgery and nothing more.

After their primary goal, anesthesiologists usually have more free time than other doctors.

They are not primarily involved in the surgical process of the operation and hence can have some time to browse the internet, read incoming messages, and do other things.

One funny joke about anesthesiology is that they’re the blood-brain barriers of medical practice. No, not the normal one you learned in anatomy and physiology, but they’re in between surgeons (blood) and physicians (brain).

However, anesthesiology is a challenging but exciting specialty you’d love to do. Your primary goal is to stabilize the patient during surgery, and yes, you can have some downtime here. But, if any problem arrives, be ready to function perfectly.

Overall, matching into anesthesiology is a fulfilling career. If you love flexible work hours plus an intermediate between medicine and surgery, then anesthesiology is a good fit.

The salary pay is competitive, plus it’s easier to match into compared to surgical specialties.

But all that goes with some downsides; surgeons may yell at you during surgeries for situations that are not your fault.

Although it doesn’t happen every time, you need to have the right mindset, with less ego and be willing to communicate and help surgeries as best as possible.

5. Psychiatry

The body is the primary focus of medicine and surgery, but what about your mind?

Mental health is a huge determining factor in man’s overall well-being, so psychiatry is an exciting specialty that helps fight illnesses.

Psychiatrists are physicians who focus on identifying, preventing, and solving mental health problems. They’re well-trained doctors who know all about mental well-being and how to make one’s mind healthy.

One popular medical specialty stereotype about psychiatry is that they’re not real doctors because their treatment processes don’t require as many medical facts.

Some people view psychiatry as a field that uses more psychology to treat mental health illnesses rather than medical and scientific study.

Another popular conception is that psychiatry is a field for doctors who don’t like excessive work hours that arrives with surgery. Students aspiring for this field also don’t want other specialties’ stress.

Others view psychiatry as a field for experienced and perfect types of people. But this isn’t true.

They learn all the diagnosing and treatment processes to help mental illnesses in residency and not from one’s life experiences. Also, they’re not perfect because they’re humans, have emotions, and can face challenges like everyone else.

6. Dermatology medical specialty stereotypes

Another popular medical specialty stereotypes is that skin doctors must be very handsome and beautiful physicians with no facial spots.

People believe their skin should be perfect since they’ve got all the knowledge on treating skin infections and problems like acne.

Others view dermatology as a specialty where you enjoy work-life balance compared to other fields. They view it as an area for beautiful female doctors who want to balance their families and career.

They don’t spend long hours diagnosing a skin infection, extra hours trying to remove a tumor, or going on emergencies.

Overall, dermatology is an exciting specialty where you spend time diagnosing and treating skin diseases. The perfect work-life balance and a good salary make residency a competitive area.

7. Pathology/ Anatomic Medicine

Have you’ve watched the Good doctor series from ABC? Then, you should remember the episode when hospital authorities made Dr. Shaun Murphy go into pathology because of his autism and poor doctor-patient interaction.

One commonly believed medical specialty stereotypes about pathology is that it’s a field for physicians who don’t find doctor-patient interaction interesting.

They’re people who lack proper communication skills and love contributing their quota to medicine in the background (laboratories).

However, regardless of the low chances of interacting with patients, pathologists communicate with fellow doctors to provide a complete diagnosis. So, the stereotype isn’t entirely true.

8. General Surgery

General surgery is similar to Internal medicine because it’s often the default for aspiring surgeons who have yet to discover their passion. It serves as the stepping stone toward becoming a neurosurgeon, plastic surgeon, or cardiothoracic surgeon.

Another medical specialty stereotypes is that general surgery is for students who don’t want to fight tough competition before matching into residency. The work usually has lesser pay compared to tougher surgical specialties.

9. Plastic Surgery

The most common conception about plastic surgery is that it only involves body reconstruction, like breast implants and facial surgeries, but this isn’t entirely true.

Plastic surgery is a broad field that involves fixing anybody’s anomaly, from facial transplants to complex ones like hand/limb transplants. Their services aren’t just for rich celebrities wanting to modify their body shape but for fixing anything in the body that’s out of position.

Another medical specialty stereotypes is that plastic surgeons are money-hungry physicians who care more about the financial aspect. People believe students venturing into the field are solely into it because of the monetary gains.

Finally, people also view plastic surgeons as perfectionists with obsessive behavior. This statement isn’t entirely incorrect, owing to the fact they love having things in the right place.

10. Orthopedic Surgery

People visit the gym to keep fit, increase muscle rigidity, and boost their physique. But do you know that you need those muscles for orthopedic surgery?

When anyone thinks about orthopedic surgery, it’s usually a field for strong students capable of lifting limbs during surgeries. People view the field as the carpentry field of surgery because specialists use tools like drilling machines and nuts.

Another stereotype is that it’s only for male doctors because of the physical activity it demands. But this isn’t true. They’re a pretty good number of successful female orthopedic surgeons who love their job.

11. Neurosurgery

The famous retired Neurosurgeon Ben Carson has, through his book “think big,” inspired thousands of young people to venture into the same field.

Through Dr. Carson, most people view Neurosurgery as the best medical specialty to achieve success in life.

People also view them as knowledgeable and egoistical doctors who love showing their wealth of knowledge of the brain.

One correct medical specialty stereotypes on Neurosurgery is that it’s highly demanding.

The brain is a delicate organ that chairs most life’s functions like breathing, thinking, movement, etc. For this reason, the field is broad and requires tons of surgical hours to solve problems successfully.

Due to their extreme working hours, people who date Neurosurgeons have little quality time compared to other doctors.

Although they earn the most money in medical practice, they don’t have the time to spend it like ordinary people.

One surgery session can go as high as a 24-hour shift. Plus, it’s a highly competitive field to match into residency, having one of the highest board score averages.

To succeed, you’d need grit and extreme determination.

However, Neurosurgeons are one of the most excellent doctors you can come across.

Although their field requires intense seriousness, they are friendly and pleasant to interact with outside the hospital.

What is the most prestigious medical specialty?

There is no actual metric to rank the most prestigious medical specialization, but according to competition and salaries, here are the most sought specialties:
Orthopedic surgery
Cardiothoracic surgery

Which medical specialty is least respected?

Understand that respect is relative when it comes to medical specialties. However, when ranked based on salary, the least respected medical things are internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics.

Do classic specialty stereotypes still hold for today’s doctors?

No. The classic medical specialty stereotypes are a myth but do have some truth in them. For example, most people consider family medicine for doctors with low step scores who don’t want the high competition. But this isn’t true, as passion can also lead one to get into the residency.
Regardless of the area of medicine, you’re considering, you’d get fulfilled if you focused more on what you love instead of stereotypes.

What is the happiest physician specialty?

Having an outstanding work-life balance is often the standard of happiness in medicine. Most surgical specialties like Neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery usually have the least-happy doctors due to the long hours at work. According to Dr. Bill, here are the happiest physician specialty:
Family medicine

Which medical specialty has the highest burnout rate?

Burnout in medical practice is unavoidable; you’d surely experience it at one point in life. However, there are some specialties where doctors share consistent burnout.
In their recent research for 2022, Medscape discovered that Emergency medicine is the specialty with the highest burnout rate. Others in this categorization include Obstetrics and gynecology, infectious diseases, Radiology, pediatrics, etc.

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Anaso Emmanuel
Anaso Emmanuel

My name is Anaso Emmanuel and I’m the founder of MedicsDomain; an SEO Expert, Content Writer and an Enthusiastic learner. To the outside world, I’m an ordinary Medic but secretly I use this blog to help aspirants get into medical school, provide insightful guides and connect with others like me.

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