Background: Demographic change, technical progress, and changing patterns of service use influence the future demand for physicians in the German health care system. The attitudes of medical students towards their later work in the health system is important for current health care planning. For that reason a nationwide survey aimed to identify major trends in preferred specialty, workplace characteristics (regional location, hospital) and perceived hindrances for clinical work.
Methods: A questionnaire consisting of 34 closed questions was developed at the University of Mainz in 2009 and administered over the Internet in June and July 2010 to all medical students in Germany. The questions addressed the students' intentions regarding specialty training, location of practice, workload, and regional preference, as well as potential reasons why they might choose not to practice clinical medicine in the future.
Results: 12 518 web-based questionnaires were filled in (approx. 15.7% of all medical students in Germany in 2010). The mean age was 24.9 years, with 64% female and 36% male. Favored specialties were internal medicine (42.6%), family medicine (29.6%), pediatrics (27.0%) and surgery (26.8%). Nearly all respondents (96%) stated that they attached importance to compatibility of work and family life. Working in a salaried position (92.2%) was preferred to working in private practice (77.7%). General practice, in particular in rural locations, was significantly less favored than work as a specialist in cities.
Conclusion: Although the coming generation of physicians anticipate working in clincial settings in the future, shortfalls in the areas of primary care and in rural locations are likely if medical students adhere to their preferences stated in the questionnaire.