Swiss residents' speciality choices--impact of gender, personality traits, career motivation and life goals

BMC Health Serv Res. 2006 Oct 23;6:137. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-6-137.


Background: The medical specialties chosen by doctors for their careers play an important part in the development of health-care services. This study aimed to investigate the influence of gender, personality traits, career motivation and life goal aspirations on the choice of medical specialty.

Methods: As part of a prospective cohort study of Swiss medical school graduates on career development, 522 fourth-year residents were asked in what specialty they wanted to qualify. They also assessed their career motivation and life goal aspirations. Data concerning personality traits such as sense of coherence, self-esteem, and gender role orientation were collected at the first assessment, four years earlier, in their final year of medical school. Data analyses were conducted by univariate and multivariate analyses of variance and covariance.

Results: In their fourth year of residency 439 (84.1%) participants had made their specialty choice. Of these, 45 (8.6%) subjects aspired to primary care, 126 (24.1%) to internal medicine, 68 (13.0%) to surgical specialties, 31 (5.9%) to gynaecology & obstetrics (G&O), 40 (7.7%) to anaesthesiology/intensive care, 44 (8.4%) to paediatrics, 25 (4.8%) to psychiatry and 60 (11.5%) to other specialties. Female residents tended to choose G&O, paediatrics, and anaesthesiology, males more often surgical specialties; the other specialties did not show gender-relevant differences of frequency distribution. Gender had the strongest significant influence on specialty choice, followed by career motivation, personality traits, and life goals. Multivariate analyses of covariance indicated that career motivation and life goals mediated the influence of personality on career choice. Personality traits were no longer significant after controlling for career motivation and life goals as covariates. The effect of gender remained significant after controlling for personality traits, career motivation and life goals.

Conclusion: Gender had the greatest impact on specialty and career choice, but there were also two other relevant influencing factors, namely career motivation and life goals. Senior physicians mentoring junior physicians should pay special attention to these aspects. Motivational guidance throughout medical training should not only focus on the professional career but also consider the personal life goals of those being mentored.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Career Choice*
  • Education, Medical*
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Health Workforce
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Medicine / classification
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Personality
  • Personality Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Specialization*
  • Switzerland