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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