Objective: Because of the increasing shortage of general practitioners (GPs) in many countries, this study aimed to explore factors related to GP career choice in recent medical graduates. Particular focus was placed on the impact of specific practice-orientated GP courses at different stages of the medical undergraduate curriculum.
Design: Observational study. Multivariable binary logistic regression was used to reveal independent associations with career choice.
Setting: Leipzig Medical School, Germany.
Subjects: 659 graduates (response rate = 64.2%).
Main outcome measure: Choice of general practice as a career.
Results: Six student-associated variables were found to be independently related to choice of general practice as a career: age, having family or friends in general practice, consideration of a GP career at matriculation, preference for subsequent work in a rural or small-town area, valuing the ability to see a broad spectrum of patients, and valuing long-term doctor-patient relationships. Regarding the curriculum, after adjustment independent associations were found with a specific pre-clinical GP elective (OR = 2.6, 95% CI 1.3-5.3), a four-week GP clerkship during the clinical study section (OR = 2.6, 95% CI 1.3-5.0), and a four-month GP clinical rotation during the final year (OR = 10.7, 95% CI 4.3-26.7). It was also found that the work-related values of the female participants were more compatible with those of physicians who opt for a GP career than was the case for their male colleagues.
Conclusion: These results support the suggestion that a practice-orientated GP curriculum in both the earlier and later stages of undergraduate medical education raises medical schools' output of future GPs. The findings are of interest for medical schools (curriculum design, admission criteria), policy-makers, and GPs involved in undergraduate medical education. More research is needed on the effectiveness of specific educational interventions in promoting interest in general practice as a career.
Keywords: Career choice; Germany; curriculum; general practice; primary care physician shortage; undergraduate medical education.