Top 5 Doctor Specialties for Introverts


Medicine attracts many types of people and, contrary to popular belief, not all of them are extroverts.

Here are the top 5 best medical specialties for introverts.

  1. Radiology
  2. Pathology
  3. Anesthesiology
  4. Surgeon
  5. Non-Clinical Medical Careers

Most people have heard the terms introvert and extrovert; however, many use the terms incorrectly. When most people picture an introvert, they think of a shy, awkward person who has a hard time communicating with others. Although there are certainly introverts out there that fit this archetype, introversion and extroversion have less to do with your social skills and more to do with your social battery.

Introverts lose energy from social interactions and recharge by spending time alone, whereas extroverts gain energy from social interactions. For this reason, it’s possible to be an introvert while still being highly sociable and good with people. The caveat is that introverts may just need some extra time alone to recharge afterward.

It is also important to note that introversion and extroversion are not black-and-white. Instead, everyone lies somewhere on the introversion-extroversion spectrum. Although there are certainly people who are at the extremes of introversion and extroversion, most people are somewhere in the middle.

According to Medscape’s 2018 Physician Lifestyle and Happiness Report, approximately 35% of physicians identify as introverts and another 38% identify as an even mix of introversion and extroversion. In addition, introverts were present within every medical specialty polled. That being said, there are some specialties with less face-to-face patient interaction where you can spend more of your time alone.


1 | Radiology

First up on our list of introvert-friendly specialties is radiology.

Radiologists are experts at interpreting imaging studies. Any time a physician orders an x-ray, CT scan, MRI, or another imaging study, it is ultimately the radiologist who reviews the images and provides their assessment. It is their analysis of the images that will often serve as the foundation for the patient’s diagnosis and guide their treatment plan.

Traditionally, radiologists spend a large proportion of their time alone in a dark room reviewing imaging studies. In some cases, they are even able to work from home and review studies remotely.

This doesn’t mean that radiologists don’t have any social interaction throughout their workday, however. While it’s not as socially demanding as the hospital floor or operating room, physicians will regularly visit or call the reading room for assistance with their patients. As such, radiologists still spend part of their day interacting with colleagues and other staff members.

There are also several subspecialties of radiology including interventional, neuro-interventional, breast, and musculoskeletal radiology that involve procedures. These range from diagnostic procedures such as biopsies and fine-needle aspirations to life-saving treatments such as thrombectomies and cancer ablations. In these fields of radiology, face-to-face patient interaction is much more common.


2 | Pathology

Next is pathology.

Pathology is the field of medicine concerned with the study of body tissues and body fluids. Similar to radiology, it is considered a “support specialty” in that pathologists help support the rest of the clinical staff. Whereas radiologists focus on imaging studies, pathologists focus on lab studies. Any time a patient gets a biopsy or gives a blood sample, it is ultimately the pathologist who will review the studies and give their interpretations.

As a pathologist, you will spend the majority of your time in the lab and have minimal face-to-face interaction with patients. That being said, your exact responsibilities will depend on your specific area of focus. Some pathologists spend their day examining tissue samples under the microscope whereas others spend their day managing the lab and ensuring tests are being performed accurately and efficiently.

For this reason, there can be a great deal of variability in terms of how much or how little social interaction a pathologist has on a daily basis. If you’re a clinical pathologist running a lab, for instance, you will need to interact heavily with your colleagues and other staff members. On the other hand, if you’re an anatomic pathologist working on surgical specimens you may spend more of your time reviewing slides independently and have less interaction.

There are also some pathology subspecialties such as cytopathology and blood bank pathology where the pathologist will perform procedures. Pathologists working in these fields can expect to have more face-to-face patient interaction than their colleagues in other subspecialties of pathology.


3 | Anesthesiology

Next up is anesthesiology.

Anesthesiologists take care of patients before, during, and after surgery. You can think of them as the patient’s guardian angel. They ensure patients are adequately sedated and comfortable and make sure they get through surgery safely.

As an anesthesiologist, your face-to-face interactions with patients will be largely limited to your pre-operative assessments. This is when you will take a focused history, discuss the risks and benefits of the medications you are going to administer, and comfort the patient prior to sedation.

That being said, much of an anesthesiologist’s work begins after the patient is sedated. They continually monitor the patient to ensure the sedation is adequate and their vitals, hemodynamic status, and airway are stable. After surgery, they’ll ensure that the patient recovers safely and their pain is well-controlled.

Given that the patient will be sedated during much of their time spent with the anesthesiologist, this field can be a great fit for those who don’t enjoy face-to-face patient interaction. It should be noted, however, that anesthesiologists still have to interact with the surgeon and the rest of the surgical staff during the procedure–and these personalities can be some of the strongest out there.

Anesthesiologists, in addition to pathologists and radiologists, are also known for having great lifestyles with relatively low on-call responsibilities. This means that in addition to having less face-to-face patient interaction and less social interaction, these specialties also tend to enjoy more time off relative to their colleagues in other specialties.


4 | Surgeon

Although they aren’t usually the first specialties to come to mind, surgical subspecialties can also be a great fit for introverts.

Compared to other medical specialties, surgeons spend a smaller portion of their day talking to patients. While they do have rounds and see patients in the clinic, their interactions in these settings are typically more focused than they are for non-surgical physicians. In addition, patients will typically be sedated during surgery meaning that you will have minimal social interaction with the patient while in the operating room.

Surgeons are also the captains of the OR meaning they often get to decide how social they would like to be during procedures. Some surgeons prefer to socialize with the rest of the staff while performing surgery whereas others prefer a more quiet operating environment. Regardless, you will still have to communicate with the rest of the OR staff in some capacity to ensure the procedure goes smoothly.


5 | Non-Clinical Medical Careers

This last point isn’t necessarily what you would classify as a “specialty”; however, there are many non-clinical careers that you can pursue as a physician that are well-suited for introverts.

Chart Review

Some physicians leave clinical medicine or decrease their clinical hours by performing chart reviews. This involves reviewing patient documents and making recommendations for things like medical necessity or insurance authorization. In addition, they may also give recommendations to help guide patient care including what medications to give, what studies to order, or how long the patient should be admitted for.

Reviewing patient charts often requires reading through various physician notes, insurance authorizations, and other documents, so much of this time is often spent alone. You may need to interact with other physicians or staff in order to get clarification on information; however, it is likely much less than you would experience working in the clinical setting.

Medical Writing

Another alternative career for physicians that is well-suited for introverts is medical writing. Due to their extensive medical training, physicians are well-suited to write medical content.

Whether it’s drafting research procedures for an academic center or creating white papers for a healthcare startup, there are a variety of options available to physicians within the field of writing. And given the nature of writing, these careers often require far less social interaction than practicing clinical medicine.

As you can see, there are numerous options within medicine–even for the most introverted of physicians. It’s important to remember, however, that no matter how introverted or extroverted you are, you should not let that be the only factor you consider when choosing a specialty.

Although some specialties may allow for more or less social interaction than others, you’ll still see a wide variety of personality types within each and every specialty. At the end of the day, it is much more important to choose a specialty that you enjoy and can see yourself doing in the long run as opposed to whatever caters to a single aspect of your personality.

Choosing a specialty is only one piece of the puzzle though. Once you’ve decided on your ideal specialty, you’ll need to match into it. At Med School Insiders, we have a variety of services to help you along the way. From residency application editing to USMLE prep and mock interviews, we’ve got you covered. There’s a reason that we’ve become the fastest-growing company in the space and our results speak for themselves. We’d love to be a part of your journey in becoming a future physician.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out How to Choose a Specialty in 6 Steps or our list of the Best Doctor Lifestyle Specialties.


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