Background: Little is known about factors contributing to the career decisions of internal medicine residents.
Objective: To evaluate factors self-reported by internal medicine residents nationally as important to their career decisions.
Design: Cross-sectional survey conducted in October of 2005, 2006, and 2007 as part of the national Internal Medicine In-Training Examination (IM-ITE).
Participants: Postgraduate year 3 internal medicine residents taking the IM-ITE.
Measurements: Residents rated the importance of nine factors in their career decisions on 5-point Likert scales. Univariate statistics characterized the distribution of responses. Associations between variables were evaluated using Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel statistics for ordinal data. Multivariate analyses were conducted using logistic regression.
Results: Of 17,044 eligible residents taking the IM-ITE, 14,890 (87.4%) completed the career decision survey questions. Overall, time with family was the factor most commonly reported as of high or very high importance to career decisions (69.6%). Women were more likely to assign greatest importance to family time (OR 1.22, 95% confidence interval 1.12-1.31, p < 0.001) and long-term patient relationships (OR 1.34, 95% confidence interval 1.23-1.46, p < 0.001). Across debt levels, financial considerations were of greatest importance more often for residents owing >$150,000 (OR 1.33, 95% confidence interval 1.09-1.62, p < 0.001). Across specialties, mentor specialty was rated lowest in importance by residents pursuing hospitalist and general internal medicine careers.
Conclusions: Greater attention to factors reported by residents as important to their career decisions may assist efforts to optimize the distribution of physicians across disciplines. In addition to lifestyle and practice considerations, these factors may include mentor specialty. As this factor is less commonly reported as important by residents planning careers in generalist fields, attention to effective mentoring may be an important element of efforts to increase interest in these areas.