Why not nephrology? A survey of US internal medicine subspecialty fellows

Am J Kidney Dis. 2013 Apr;61(4):540-6. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2012.10.025. Epub 2013 Jan 16.


Background: There is a decreased interest in nephrology such that the number of trainees likely will not meet the upcoming workforce demands posed by the projected number of patients with kidney disease. We conducted a survey of US internal medicine subspecialty fellows in fields other than nephrology to determine why they did not choose nephrology.

Methods: A web-based survey with multiple choice, yes/no, and open-ended questions was sent in summer 2011 to trainees reached through internal medicine subspecialty program directors.

Results: 714 fellows responded to the survey (11% response rate). All non-nephrology internal medicine subspecialties were represented, and 90% of respondents were from university-based programs. Of the respondents, 31% indicated that nephrology was the most difficult physiology course taught in medical school, and 26% had considered nephrology as a career choice. Nearly one-fourth of the respondents said they would have considered nephrology if the field had higher income or the subject were taught well during medical school and residency training. The top reasons for not choosing nephrology were the belief that patients with end-stage renal disease were too complicated, the lack of a mentor, and that there were insufficient procedures in nephrology.

Conclusions: Most non-nephrology internal medicine subspecialty fellows never considered nephrology as a career choice. A significant proportion were dissuaded by factors such as the challenges of the patient population, lack of role models, lack of procedures, and perceived difficulty of the subject matter. Addressing these factors will require the concerted effort of nephrologists throughout the training community.

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Fellowships and Scholarships
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / education
  • Life Style
  • Mentors / statistics & numerical data
  • Nephrology* / education
  • United States
  • Workforce