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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Why choose psychiatry?

Psychiatry is one of the most varied, interesting and rewarding specialties in medicine. Every day can be different and every patient seen is unique. It is an excellent career choice for anyone interested in how the mind works and who enjoys working as part of a team.

 

Psychiatrists work across a person’s lifespan, from childhood to old age. There are a number of different areas in which you can specialise: child and adolescent psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, medical psychotherapy, the psychiatry of learning disability, general psychiatry and old age psychiatry. Within each of these specialties, there are a number of subspecialties, including crisis resolution and home treatment, early intervention, eating disorders, liaison, neuropsychiatry, and many more.

 

Psychiatrists work in a number of different settings including both psychiatric and general hospitals, people's own homes, residential centres, nursing homes and in prisons. They look after patients with mental health problems, such as depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia and drug and alcohol abuse. Management of these disorders involves a combination of measures, such as medication, psychological treatments, improving home environments and social networks, and occasionally physical treatment such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Therefore, treatment of patients with mental health problems depends on a wide range of professionals, including clinical psychologists, social workers, community psychiatric nurses, and occupational therapists. The psychiatrist needs to work together with these professionals as part of a team.

 

There are few mental health disorders for which there is a definitive diagnostic laboratory test, but most psychiatric diagnoses are made on the basis of a full history and mental state and physical examination. This is why good communication skills are essential to be a good psychiatrist and why diagnosing patients is a challenge for psychiatrists. Another distinctive aspect of psychiatry is that patients sometimes have no insight into their own illness. These patients sometimes need to be treated without their consent. To safeguard the rights of patients, mental health professionals need to follow precise procedures in the Mental Health Act before they are allowed to admit and treat patients against their will.

 

As a doctor specialising in this area, you really could make a difference to someone’s life, and help them to regain their self-respect and happiness. Psychiatry offers fast career progression and excellent job opportunities. As a career, psychiatry attracts as many women as men and it can be particularly appealing for those interested in flexible (part-time) work. There is substantial scope for clinician involvement in management at all levels and academic and research opportunities are good.

 

 

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Updated 11 April 2012

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