NEW YORK — A heavy majority of medical students say they expect their choice of specialty will be more influenced by the time it allows for family and personal life than how much money it pays, according to a survey.
The response was about the same for male and female students in the survey last summer by a New York research firm, results of which were released last week.
Eighty-one percent of the 314 aspiring physicians responding said they would be guided more by family and personal factors than money. Fewer than three in 10 considered potential income important in specialty choice.
Specialties of interest are pediatrics, 23%; general internal medicine, 23%; various internal medicine subspecialties, 23%; general surgery, 19%; family medicine, 18%; and surgical subspecialties, 18%.
Life Style a Factor
The influence of life-style factors on considerations of specialty was confirmed by Kenneth Tardiff, associate dean at Cornell University College of Medicine, and Rita Charon, assistant professor of medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Tardiff, also an associate professor of psychiatry, contends that from what he observes among students, the survey findings are on target. Charon, also on the staff of New York's Presbyterian Hospital, agreed.
"The quality of the life-style factor is very much a consideration," Tardiff said, suggesting that is why some are thinking about health maintenance organizations or group practice.
"I'd say the survey reflects a trend--what the men and women in medical school are thinking as they consider specialties," Charon said.
"Eighty-one percent in this survey put personal life style ahead of money.
"They are asking, 'Am I willing to put in 18 hours a day?' In answering the question, they are saying life-style issues are very important."
The national survey, based on telephone interviews with medical students who had not yet entered their final year, was conducted by Penn & Schoen, a New York research firm.
It has a margin of error of 3 to 6 percentage points and was paid for by Glaxo, a Research Triangle Park, N.C., pharmaceutical firm that is working with medical school faculties to develop career workshops for students.
Choice Called Difficult
"Research findings show that selecting a specialty is confusing and difficult for medical students," said Stuart Bondurant, dean of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and a member of the Glaxo Pathway Evaluation Program advisory board.
- 53% felt that the loss of professional autonomy or control would have a significant impact upon their specialty choice.
- 29% saw the risk of malpractice suits as an important factor in their decision.
- 10% felt that the risk of getting AIDS would have a significant impact upon their specialty selection.
- 93% believe that the medical school curriculum should provide information about selecting a specialty. But nearly 58% of those entering their final year--and who are immediately facing the choice--feel that they are not getting enough of this necessary information from their schools.
- 58% believe that the curriculum should provide information about selecting a practice environment, but three-fourths of those entering their last year feel they are not being given this information.
- Among students entering their final year, 23% feel that they are well-informed about what it would be like currently to be a practicing physician.
- Men and women have somewhat different interests in specialties under consideration. Thirty percent of women intend to go into pediatrics, versus 19% of men; 25% of men versus 7% of women, general surgery; 22% of men versus 11% of women, surgical subspecialties; 14% of men versus 4% of women, orthopedics.