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This article focuses on the numerous post-graduate medical and surgical specialties that exist. Doctors who have obtained their undergraduate/bachelor's degrees in medicine and surgery can decide to remain as general practitioners or train further.

Some doctors are happy to remain as general practitioners and manage patients from babies to older people, diagnose and treat common illnesses and infections, manage chronic diseases, perform routine check-ups and screening on patients and refer to specialist doctors where necessary.

General practitioners (GPs) are very important in medicine as they advocate for their patients when they need to be referred for further appropriate assessments and management. GPs can also further their knowledge by taking part in courses which improve their clinical and practical skills. These courses can include surgical skills’ training, which is necessary for performing small procedures such as removing small lumps and inserting sutures, and infectious disease courses which help to educate a doctor in the treatment of illnesses such as tuberculosis and HIV.

Other courses and diplomas that GPs can take part in include training in tropical diseases, sports medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology and anaesthetics.

However, many specialties exist where doctors can train further into certain medical or surgical disciplines. Which specialisation might be right for you, if you want to go down this road?

Introduction To Medical And Surgical Specialties

Besides the availability of the above-mentioned courses and diplomas, doctors can specialise further into medical or surgical disciplines.

In order to train further into a chosen specialty, a prospective candidate needs to complete an  undergraduate medical degree, a bachelor of medicine and surgery. Depending on which country one lives in, certain residency and internship years need to be completed where doctors are exposed to different disciplines of medicine. Here, a doctor can get a better idea of what to expect when studying, working and training in their chosen field.

Once a doctor has decided that they want to specialise, they would then have to contact the relevant department at the university they want to study at and apply for a post, if it's available. The prospective candidate will then be invited to sit for an interview if their application is successful. If the panel responsible for choosing new candidates is happy with the doctor, then they will approve the doctor for the available post. 

The doctor will then have to notify their country's medical council to inform them that they have started specialising in a postgraduate discipline, as well as their medical malpractice insurer in order to be licensed and covered for the correct specialist field, respectively.

Training as a specialist can take between 4 and 5 years to complete, depending on the discipline. Two specialist posts are available in a medical or surgical department for every consultant that is present. A doctor wanting to specialise will then have a mentor available at all times in order to learn new techniques and procedures as well as ask relevant questions to further their knowledge. A specialising doctor will be expected to perform procedures and see patients themselves by the time they near the end of their training. These doctors are also expected to be available after-hours in order to manage emergency cases when they do occur.

Once these doctors have successfully completed their theoretical and practical assessments in their chosen specialty, they can decide to start working as consultants in the department they trained in or go into private practice. If a specialist wants to sub-specialise then a further 2 to 3 years of fellowship training needs to be done in order to do so. 

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