Background: Studies indicate that a student's career interest at medical school entry is related to his or her ultimate career. We sought to determine the level of interest in emergency medicine among students at the time of medical school entry, and to describe characteristics associated with students primarily interested in emergency medicine.
Methods: We surveyed students in 18 medical school classes from 8 Canadian universities between 2001 and 2004 at the commencement of their studies. Participants listed their top career choice and the degree to which a series of variables influenced their choices. We also collected demographic data.
Results: Of 2420 surveys distributed, 2168 (89.6%) were completed. A total of 6.1% (95% confidence interval 5.1%-7.1%) of respondents cited emergency medicine as their first career choice. When compared with students primarily interested in family medicine, those primarily interested in emergency medicine reported a greater influence of hospital orientation and a lesser influence of social orientation on their career choice. When compared with students primarily interested in the surgical specialties, those primarily interested in emergency medicine were more likely to report medical lifestyle and varied scope of practice as important influences. When compared with students primarily interested in the medical specialties, those who reported interest in emergency medicine were more likely to report that a hospital orientation and varied scope of practice were important influences, and less likely to report that social orientation was important.
Conclusion: Students primarily interested in emergency medicine at medical school entry have attributes that differentiate them from students primarily interested in family medicine, the surgical specialties or the medical specialties. These findings may help guide future initiatives regarding emergency medicine education.