A qualitative analysis of career transitions made by internal medicine-pediatrics residency training graduates

N C Med J. May-Jun 2011;72(3):191-5.


Background: Physicians who complete combined residency training in internal medicine and pediatrics (med-peds) have a variety of career options after training. Little is known about career transitions among this group or among other broadly trained physicians.

Methods: To better understand these career transitions, we conducted semistructured, in-depth, telephone interviews of graduates of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine med-peds program who self-identified as having had a career transition since completing training. We qualitatively analyzed interview transcripts, to develop themes describing their career transitions.

Results: Of 106 physicians who graduated during 1980-2007, 20 participated in interviews. Participants identified factors such as personality, work environment, lifestyle, family, and finances as important to career transition. Five other themes emerged from the data; the following 4 were confirmed by follow-up interviews: (1) experiences during residency were not sufficient to predict future job satisfaction; work after the completion of training was necessary to discover career preferences; (2) a major factor motivating job change was a perceived lack of control in the workplace; (3) participants described a sense of regret if they did not continue to see both adult and pediatric patients as a result of their career change; (4) participants appreciated their broad training and, regardless of career path, would choose to pursue combined residency training again.

Limitations: We included only a small number of graduates from a single institution. We did not interview graduates who had no career transitions after training.

Conclusions: There are many professional opportunities for physicians trained in med-peds. Four consistent themes surfaced during interviews about med-peds career transitions. Future research should explore how to use these themes to help physicians make career choices and employers retain physicians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Career Mobility*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / education*
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • North Carolina
  • Pediatrics / education*
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits
  • Workforce
  • Workplace