Medical specialty stereotypes

Medical Specialty Stereotypes [Fact or Fiction?]

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Whether you are a health care professional or a medical student, you probably have heard of medical specialty stereotypes. As long as you are aiming for or pursuing a career in the medical field, it is impossible to miss nor escape them. 

Today, there are already hundreds of medical specialty stereotypes created. It is not exactly surprising if you think about it. 

A stereotype is a generalized belief or set of characteristics that people often associate with a group. Since medical specialties are broken into groups and teams within the clinical setting, it is only natural that stereotypes for each will form. 

Continue reading this article to know more about medical specialty stereotypes

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What Is A Medical Specialty Stereotype?

Medical specialty stereotypes are exactly what it sounds like. They are faulty assumptions made about a specific medical specialty.  

Generalizations, though, hold a germ of truth to them. So, while most are not entirely true, they are not 100% false either. 

So, before we dive into this, note that this article only discusses medical stereotypes. They are not pure facts and should not be treated as such. 

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Internal Medicine

Internal medicine is what people assume as the ‘default’. The reason is that most people not familiar with the medical field tend to believe that all the doctors they meet practice internal medicine

There are three reasons why internal medicine is known as the default. Students either plan on specializing after residency in fellowship, are interested in being a primary care doctor, or didn’t fall in love with any other specialty so it became their default

Another popular stereotype tied to internal medicine is that they love talking and thinking rather than doing. This stereotype exists because, in inpatient medicine, doctors spend several hours a day rounding on patients and discussing details of their treatment

It is opposite to surgeon personalities who, rather than spending hours rounding and talking, prefer to get their hands dirty and blooded

Medical specialty stereotypes

Family Medicine

In contrast to most medical specialties, family medicine is focused less on a specific population (women, kids, or adults). It focuses on families as a social unit.

The most known medical specialty stereotype for family medicine is that people who go into this are not particularly strong or outstanding students. Unlike others, family medicine is less competitive

The pay is leaning towards the bottom of the stack, and the average board scores are low. However, several brilliant medical students take up family medicine due to preference and personal reasons

They go into family medicine because they are passionate about the specialty. Also, a low or high board score is not an accurate indicator nor predictive of whether or not you will be a good doctor. 

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What do others have to say about anesthetists? They are crucial for surgery but worthless outside of it

Anesthesiologists have a terrible reputation for being lazy. They are only busy at the start of the procedure, at the end, and at the moments in the middle. 

However, compared to other specialties, these doctors have more downtime. Since operations and surgeries take hours, many anesthesiologists tend to do something else — checking emails, watching videos, and sleeping occasionally. 

What most people don’t know is how this specialty is more complicated than it looks.

When things are steady and calm, then all is well. But how about when a patient is rapidly decompensating and unstable? You wouldn’t want to be on their spot.

In reality, anesthesiology is an excellent specialty as it offers flexible hours, less competitiveness, and good pay. Just know that in this career, you get yelled at often by cranky surgeons.

the life of a radiologist


A common stereotype about radiologists is that they are vampires who don’t go out in broad daylight. Radiologists spend most of their hours inside a darkroom with their MRIs, radiographs, and imaging, so it is quite rare to see them out and about during the day. 

The limited exposure to radiologists perpetuates more negative stereotypes. Most are comical and are indirectly referencing their love for computers or lack of exposure to the sun

They are pale and lacking in vitamin D, more interested in algorithms than patients, are physics or anatomy nerds, or bespectacled from staring at screens all day long. 

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According to medical stereotypes, pathologists are highly introverted, lacking in social skills, and are not keen on interacting with pesky homo sapiens. They are often coped up in their lab, examining body tissues and performing tests — hence the origin of the concept of their aversion to social interaction.

While pathologists don’t usually interact with patients, they regularly work with physicians of other specialties. So, they need to interact with others and have enough social skills to work correctly.

For that reason, you would not exactly get far in this specialty if you couldn’t work with other people outside of your team. 

Dermatology sub-specialties


Most believe that dermatologists have the best work-life balance among all medical professions. Their work is not as hectic or manic as other specialties — no after-hours emergencies or sudden summons during the night. 

They also are expected to have perfect skin. The pressure to have flawless and spotless skin is there for a dermatologist since they know and have the most access to skincare

With the pretty laid-back schedule and work hours, you can expect that this specialty has tough competition. The pay is also great. 

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Psychiatrists have it hardest — in fact, some see them as fake doctors since their specialty is considered the most unscientific and imprecise study. People believe that they have almost a magical insight into the human psyche and soul

Many people see psychiatrists as having no actual cure. They are also viewed far differently from other doctors due to the nature of their specialty.

They are seen as strange individuals. Older views regarding psychiatrists are that they are repressive agents who incarcerate others for the good of society.

That cannot be farther from the truth.

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Psychiatrists specialize in diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental illnesses. Their field of study is just as crucial as others — just underappreciated by most. 

Another common stereotype and misconception regarding psychiatrists is that they have perfect lives. They are also humans with emotions, so one can be clinically depressed and still be a psychiatrist

Some people also are wary of psychiatrists due to fear of being psychoanalyzed. Being observant is part of the job, so it is almost second nature to them, but they do not mean any harm

General Surgery 

Decades ago, before the sub-specialization of the different types of surgery—general surgery was broad. Today, general surgery centers mostly on surgical interventions of the endocrine and gastrointestinal systems

For this reason, this specialty garnered quite a few damaging stereotypes. 

One is that it is less compensated than other specialties. Most say that it is the easiest surgical specialty to get into and that other doctors and medical students suggest it to people who can’t get into a more competitive specialty

Second, given the challenging and malignant lifestyle, general surgeons are viewed as masochists since they seem to love suffering and pain

Do many choose general surgery because it is easier than most specialties? Sure, but more pursue this because of personal preference and other reasons.

It may be because they are undecided on their surgical subspecialty, or they want to use it as an avenue to train for another sub-specialty like cardiothoracic. 

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Orthopedic Surgery

Orthopedics is the jock and meathead of the medical field. You probably think of bench presses, bros, and no medical management skills when you think about ortho.

Orthopedic surgeons are seen as the homogenous group of brash, athletic, and physically fit doctors. This perception and assumption negatively influence residency applicants who fall outside that realm of stereotype. 

It is not all bros, though. While men mainly dominate this area, there are still many talented and skillful female orthopedic surgeons

Medical specialty stereotypes


The most popular stereotypes of neurosurgeons are that they have a god complex, are hugely egotistical, and are incredibly delicate. All three of these are mostly false and inaccurate

Sure, you will find people with egotistical personalities in any medical specialty. It is, however, unfair to place neurosurgery higher on the list than any other surgical specialty since the level of ego is quite comparable. 

What’s true is that neurosurgeons are some of the hardest-working people in the hospital. They work the most demanding and challenging hours—their work and lifestyle are nothing to be envious about.

Interestingly enough, neurosurgeons have some of the most dynamic and hilarious personalities in the hospital! Since they deal with tragedy regularly, they need to stay sane by having healthy coping mechanisms

These healthy mechanisms consist of sublimation, altruism, humor, and anticipation. Some of the funniest personalities in the hospital will be in this group and team.

Bonus: Want to learn how I got a 3.9 GPA in med school using a simple-to-follow study strategy? Get access to my exact study method from med school for free here. 

Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Cardiothoracic surgeons are probably one of the specialties on top of the hospital food chain and hierarchy. They are the royalty of doctors that earns the most respect

The money and pay are also great, and they often do rewarding surgeries that earn them respect, acknowledgment, and recognition from the rest of the hospital. They live some of the best lives.

Though, the competition is extremely tough. If you are not ambitious enough, you will undoubtedly get eaten alive. 

medical specialty stereotypes


Ob-Gyn focuses on the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth and the diagnosis of diseases and illnesses associated with the female reproductive system. A common stereotype for this specialty is that it is not actual surgery and that they are a miserable group of people

The ‘miserable’ part is probably due to them always looking overworked and tired. The hours in Ob-Gyn are hellishly long; thus, the doctors are heavily stressed, overworked and exhausted.

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Are medical specialty stereotypes fact or fiction? Several of these stereotypes are fiction with a dash of truth in them. 

Do keep in mind that all medical specialties are unique and essential. Do not let these stereotypes affect your opinion about these specialties.

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Want to read more interesting medical-related articles? You can check our other posts for more informative content!

Until the next one, my friend…

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