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ANZ Health Policy

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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 36(2)

Why are junior doctors deterred from choosing a surgical career?

Mary E. Rogers A D, Peter A. Creed B and Judy Searle C

A Griffith Business School, Department of Employment Relations and Human Resources, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Gold Coast, QLD 4222, Australia.
B School of Psychology, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Gold Coast, QLD 4222, Australia. Email: p.creed@griffith.edu.au
C School of Medicine, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Gold Coast, QLD 4222, Australia. Email: Judy.Searle@griffith.edu.au
D Corresponding author. Email: mary.rogers@griffith.edu.au

Australian Health Review 36(2) 191-196 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH11999
Submitted: 27 January 2011  Accepted: 21 September 2011   Published: 4 May 2012

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Objective. To identify the reasons why interns would not choose a surgical career.

Methods. This qualitative study used semi-structured telephone interviews to explore the future career choices of 41 junior doctors (14 men, 27 women). Doctors were asked to identify specialties they would not take up, and state why this was the case.

Results. Thirty (73.2%) of the 41 interns nominated surgery as a specialty they would not choose. Themes relating to reasons for not wanting to pursue a surgical career included the lifestyle associated with surgery (66.7%), the culture within the surgical work environment (53.3%), the lack of interest in performing surgical work (36.7%), and the training requirements associated with surgery (33.3%). Both sexes had similar reasons for not wanting to choose a surgical career; but additionally, women referred to the male domination of surgery, and the difficulty and inflexibility of the training program as deterrents.

Conclusions. Efforts are needed to promote interest in surgery as a career especially for women, to improve the surgical work environment so that medical students and junior doctors have exposure to positive role models and surgical placements, and to provide a more flexible approach to surgical training.

What is known about the topic? In Australia, there is an anticipated future shortage of surgeons, with acute shortages expected in some locations. Lifestyle issues are reported as the primary contributing factor.

What does this paper add? Little is known about Australian junior doctors’ perceptions of surgery as a possible specialty choice. The results of this qualitative study reveal that perceived lack of lifestyle, the culture within the surgical environment, the lack of interest in performing surgery, and concerns relating to the training program were the main disincentives to choosing a surgical career. These results add to the international literature in this area.

What are the implications for practitioners? To meet current and future workforce needs, educators need to be aware that positive role models and positive work environments are very important in attracting more medical students and graduates to choosing surgery as a career.

Additional keywords: career choice, deterrents, interns, surgery.


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