Lifestyle factors and primary care specialty selection: comparing 2012-2013 graduating and matriculating medical students' thoughts on specialty lifestyle

Acad Med. 2014 Nov;89(11):1483-9. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000487.


Purpose: To compare how first-year (MS1) and fourth-year students (MS4) ascribe importance to lifestyle domains and specialty characteristics in specialty selection, and compare students' ratings with their primary care (PC) interest.

Method: In March 2013, MS4s from 11 U.S. MD-granting medical schools were surveyed. Using a five-point Likert-type scale (1 = not important at all; 5 = extremely important), respondents rated the importance of 5 lifestyle domains and 21 specialty selection characteristics. One-way analysis of variance was used to assess differences by PC interest among MS4s. Using logistic regression, ratings from MS4s were compared with prior analyses of ratings by MS1s who matriculated to the same 11 schools in 2012.

Results: The response rate was 57% (965/1,701). MS4s, as compared with MS1s, rated as more important to good lifestyle: time off (4.3 versus 4.0), schedule control (4.2 versus 3.9), and financial compensation (3.4 versus 3.2). More MS4s than MS1s selected "time-off" (262/906 [30%] versus 136/969 [14%]) and "control of work schedule" (169/906 [19%] versus 146/969 [15%]) as the most important lifestyle domains. In both classes, PC interest was associated with higher ratings of working with the underserved and lower ratings of prestige and salary.

Conclusions: In the 2012-2013 academic year, matriculating students and graduating students had similar perceptions of lifestyle and specialty characteristics associated with PC interest. Graduating students placed more importance on schedule control and time off than matriculating students. Specialties should consider addressing a perceived lack of schedule control or inadequate time off to attract students.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Career Choice
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult