The relative influence of available resources during the residency match: a national survey of canadian medical students

J Grad Med Educ. 2011 Dec;3(4):497-502. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-11-00043.1.

Abstract

Background: Many medical students find choosing a residency challenging. There are several steps involved, including determining one's own priorities, arranging electives, choosing a training program and site, and preparing an in-depth application and a rank order list. Many resources are available to assist students, including the Canadian Resident Matching Service website, program websites, career counselors, career information sessions, mentors, peers, family/friends, and the Canadian Medical Residency Guide. Our study explored the relative impact of these resources on the career decision-making process.

Method: We invited medical students in their final year at 12 Canadian medical schools to complete an online survey. Questions included identifying the relative utility of resources in the context of each component of the decision-making process. Responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Results: The response rate was 71% (1076 of 1518). Overall, mentors, family/friends, and peers had the most impact on students' decision making. Career counselors, websites, and the Canadian Medical Residency Guide had much less impact. Family/friends were most frequently cited as essential to the process; however, family/friends and peers were equal in having some impact.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that students are most influenced by family, friends, and peers, who are not involved in the formal residency selection effort. Appreciating the impact of these influences on students' decision making is important to understanding how they decide on their future careers. The study supports continuation of mentorship programs. Future work could focus on qualitative research to further characterize resource use.