Why UK medical students change career preferences: an interview study

Amit Singh
Hugh Alberti
Soort article
Original Research
Decision making,
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Introduction Medical career preferences are influenced by a multitude of factors. Currently several specialties are undergoing recruitment problems; we must develop our understanding of medical career decision-making to ensure the production of an appropriate workforce. We aimed to explore the changing career preferences of students during medical school, to better understand this.

Methods This was an interpretivist, qualitative study. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with seven final-year students to explore why their career preferences had changed during medical school. Transcripts of these interviews were thematically analysed.

Results Three overarching themes emerged from the analysis: The ‘influence of medical school’, ‘perceived suitability to specialty’ and ‘belonging and fitting in’. A thematic map captured the participants’ perceptions on why their preferences had changed, with major influences echoing existing research. However, novel findings included participants’ personalities and enthusiasm changing over time, the need for a ‘sense of belonging’ and participants defining the term ‘variety’ uniquely, perceiving their current specialty preference to match their definition.

Discussion This was an original, in-depth study on changing career preferences, which is an ill-defined subject within the literature. Analysis revealed preferences changed for a variety of medical school, personal and specialty reasons, leading to the construction of an updated model of medical career decision-making. Medical career preference remains a dynamic and ever-evolving phenomenon, influenced by an intricate interplay of internal and external factors. An understanding of this is crucial for future workforce planning.


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