Aims: To determine the debt level that current Auckland medical students expect to graduate with, and evaluate this debt in the context of their career aspirations and intended place of practice.
Methods: Simple check-box and fill-in-the-blank surveys were distributed to Auckland University medical students in Years 1 through to 5 during their second week of scheduled lectures in March 2000. Students were asked to provide demographic details, then complete sections on debt and career aspirations.
Results: 70% of Auckland medical students participated. Average expected debt was between $60000 to $70000. Predicted size of graduation debt was significantly related with plans to practice medicine overseas, and this trend was especially strong among females. In addition, Maori and Polynesian students bear a disproportionate level of the student debt burden compared to Pakeha and Asian groups. 77% of students indicated a preference for working in private or hospital specialty work.
Conclusions: Student debt will have major effects on the composition of the New Zealand medical workforce over coming years. More attention must be paid to the national picture of medical student indebtedness if adequate workforce planning is to be possible.