Background: career intentions of medical students may impact on education and workforce planning. We sought to determine (i) career choices of senior medical students; (ii) interest in geriatric medicine; (iii) factors influencing such choices; and (iv) the impact of a 6-week Medicine in the Community module.
Methods: cross-sectional survey of all senior UCD medical students, before and after completion of a 'Medicine in the Community' module, 2009-11.
Results: eighty-two per cent (274/336) completed the survey at module's end. Two-thirds (174) had chosen a future speciality, most frequently general practice (32.1%) and internal medicine (17%). Half (49.8%) believed career selection is made during medical school. Thirty-one per cent would consider a career in geriatric medicine; reasons cited were interesting field (34.5%), clinical variety (25%) and perception as emotionally rewarding (20.2%). Commonest deterrents were perceived slowness-of-pace and not wanting to work with older patients. Female students (adjusted OR: 1.89, P = 0.05) and those prioritising travel opportunities (adjusted OR: 2.77, P = 0.01) were more likely to consider geriatric medicine. Half (51.5%) reported that the community medicine module increased their interest in geriatric medicine; 91.3% that it would positively influence how they treated older patients. Students reporting a positive influence of the module were more likely to consider a career in geriatric medicine (OR: 1.62, P = 0.02).
Conclusion: two-thirds of students had already chosen a future speciality. One-third would consider geriatric medicine. This may have important implications for workforce planning and development of geriatric medicine. Undergraduate exposure to the discipline may increase interest in geriatric medicine as a career, and positively influence management of older patients.
Keywords: career choice; education; geriatrics; older people; teaching.