15+ Year Member
May 29, 2002
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I was somewhat undecided about specialty choice as an MS4. I was debating between two fields which both require PGY-1 base clinical years. I ultimately decided to apply for the far more competitive of the two since it would be theoretically easier to change to the less competitive field later if I had made the wrong choice.

Now I am currently an intern in a transitional year program and feel that the half-year of internship thus far has helped me better understand myself and increased my confidence about clinical situations that would have preferred to avoid before. I find that I much more enjoy reading about the specialty that I decided against than the one I am matriculating into next year.

It's an unsettling feeling that I may have made the wrong choice, especially since I was fortunate enough to match into a very competitive specialty at an awesome location. Now I feel like picking up the pieces searching for salvage options to change specialties is likely to leave me in a mess.

I wish if there was more flexibility in choosing a career in medicine! It would seem like a transitional internship where you get to have a variety of clinical experiences would very naturally shape people's career choice for the next year...

Any advice for how I could investigate my options in the other field without creating a problem with my current match?



10+ Year Member
Sep 10, 2007
Cacti, Tumbleweed, Oil, McMansions
Resident [Any Field]
You're in rad-onc and want to switch to anesthesia, is that correct?

Anesthesia is the Statue of Liberty, pre-Immigration Acts of the 1920s: the tired, the poor, the huddled masses are all welcome. Meaning, people from literally every specialty switch into anesthesia with ease. You investigate this the same way as you would anything else-- keep reading to make sure you're interested, contact programs, check find-a-resident, etc. As a physician you're outside the Match so you're not bound by the NRMP deadlines, which have of course passed.

Incidentally since rad-onc is 5 years (1+4) and anesthesia is 4 (1+3) you'd be breaking even if you waited to switch until next year, after you started your radiation oncology training and had a few months of experience. If after a couple of months of rad-onc you still feel you're interested in anesthesia, that to my mind would be a stronger signal that your interest was genuine, that anesthesia was indeed the right choice, and that you should make the jump. Trying to decide while in a TY can be hard since you're not doing either specialty.


Paul Revere of Medicine
15+ Year Member
Jul 27, 2004
Attending Physician
I don't see the problem. Just do it. Talk to the PD or chairman of desired field and make it happen.
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Long Dong

My middle name is Duc.
10+ Year Member
Aug 8, 2004
The Best Coast
Attending Physician
There was a guy in my TY program (last year) who switched from optho some place in Texas to rads in Southern Cali. So it has been done and I'm sure gas would be alot easier to get then rads or rad onc.


10+ Year Member
May 15, 2008
Attending Physician
If you got into rad onc you wouldn't have any trouble switching to any specialty other than probably derm, plastic surg, urology, other picky surgical specialties (and maybe not even all of those).

The question is whether you are SURE you want to switch, 'cause once you leave you ain't getting back into rad onc.

Better than any out of the match spot you could find would probably be to network (i.e. the anesthesia chairman of your med school, perhaps the anesthesia chair of your current hospital/med center, etc.). Once anesthesia program directors see your application they will start salivating. So do not worry about that.

blondedocteur's recommendation may be more prudent. Reading about anesthesia and doing anesthesia are two completely different things. It's still early in the year. Is there an opportunity for you to do more anesthesia months and/or a rad onc month this year, to further solidify your decision?
If/when you decide to switch, you should just tell your rad/onc chairman...most likely he/she will be understanding, particularly if you haven't yet started your first rad/onc year. Even if you had, they could quickly find a new person. You have to do what you have to do for your career.
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