Questions under study: The present study aimed to investigate the differences between future family physicians, and physicians aspiring to other medical specialities, in terms of sociodemographic factors and variables concerning personality factors, career motivation, career success, importance of life goals and work-life balance; further, the stability in career choice of family physicians from medical school through to residency was evaluated.
Methods: Data reported are from four assessments of the Swiss physicians' longitudinal career development study, begun in 2001 (T1). At T4, in 2007, 543 residents (76% of the initial sample at T1) completed a questionnaire concerning their personal and professional goals. The difference between family physicians and specialists was studied by multivariate analyses of covariance adjusted for gender.
Results: Of the study sample, 84 (17%) decided on family medicine, 66% of them as early as medical school or at the beginning of residency. Compared to specialists, more family physicians are married and more have children. Their intrinsic and extrinsic career motivation is lower, their extraprofessional concerns are greater and they rate their objective and subjective career success lower. The favoured models of work-family and work-life balance respectively are part-time oriented.
Conclusion: Future family physicians, both females and males, are less career-oriented. The results suggest that the waning reputation of family medicine and the uncertain development of this medical discipline in the Swiss healthcare system attract less career-oriented applicants. A well-balanced integration of professional and private life is an essential goal for the new generation of doctors; this applies even more to female doctors and family physicians. Considering this trend, the question arises whether the current number of medical school graduates is sufficient to ensure the population's healthcare provision in the future.