Objective: To identify the reasons why interns would not choose a surgical career.
Methods: This qualitative study used semi-structured telephone interviews to explore the future career choices of 41 junior doctors (14 men, 27 women). Doctors were asked to identify specialties they would not take up, and state why this was the case.
Results: Thirty (73.2%) of the 41 interns nominated surgery as a specialty they would not choose. Themes relating to reasons for not wanting to pursue a surgical career included the lifestyle associated with surgery (66.7%), the culture within the surgical work environment (53.3%), the lack of interest in performing surgical work (36.7%), and the training requirements associated with surgery (33.3%). Both sexes had similar reasons for not wanting to choose a surgical career; but additionally, women referred to the male domination of surgery, and the difficulty and inflexibility of the training program as deterrents.
Conclusions: Efforts are needed to promote interest in surgery as a career especially for women, to improve the surgical work environment so that medical students and junior doctors have exposure to positive role models and surgical placements, and to provide a more flexible approach to surgical training.