Aims: To record career preferences for medical students at the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences and investigate factors, including student debt, that might influence career decisions.
Methods: A questionnaire, The New Zealand Wellbeing, Intentions, Debt, and Experiences (WIDE) Survey of Medical Students, was developed and administered to all 204 medical students at the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The survey included questions relating to preferred career intentions and factors influencing career decisions, including the decision to leave New Zealand to practise medicine.
Results: The response rate was 88%. 80% intend to practise medicine in New Zealand immediately after graduation, however 82% indicated that they would leave within two years of graduation. Financial opportunities overseas and level of debt were the strongest motivating factors to leave. Repayments towards student loans and increased salaries were factors that might retain people in New Zealand. Medical and surgical specialities were the most popular career choices. Personal interest was the strongest motivator for career choice. Practising in a rural community was not popular.
Conclusion: Debt is one of a number of important factors influencing medical student career decisions including the decision to leave New Zealand. Initiatives addressing debt may be useful in retaining medical graduates in this country.