Background: On March 11th, 2020, the WHO made the assessment that coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) could be characterized as a pandemic. Medical students experienced a greater degree of anxiety and psychological stress than during previous pandemics. Negative emotions were related to decreased medical career interest, increased career choice regret and dropout rates in medical students, which affected academic and professional development. The goal of this study was to investigate the impact of the current COVID-19 outbreak on the career preferences of pediatric medical students and to explore the underlying factors contributing to it.
Methods: A prospective, longitudinal study was conducted among all 120 pediatric medical students from Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University on November 23rd, 2019, and February 21st, 2020 using a 7-item online questionnaire about career choice.
Results: A total of 106 (41 male and 65 female) students with a mean age of 21 years consented to participate in this study. The response rate was 100% in November 2019 and 98.1% in February 2020. Since the outbreak, career choices to practice medicine or pediatrics did not drop significantly, decreasing by only 4.3% and 2.2%, respectively. There was a positive impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on strengthening 66.7% of students' beliefs and choices to become good pediatricians (P<0.001). Only 14 students (13.5%) thought that COVID-19 had a negative impact on their career choices, but the majority of them were in the 3rd (28.6%) and 4th (64.3%) years of medical education and had insufficient knowledge about the hospital environment and clinics.
Conclusions: The outbreak of COVID-19 might have an overall positive impact on career choice by strengthening students' belief and choice to become good doctors and may decrease the choice regret and drop rates of the next generation of doctors. Special attention should be paid to students with insufficient clinical experience. Good protection for students, sharing outstanding stories regarding fighting the pandemic, and innovations of needs-based curriculum could be helpful during this pandemic. Future studies are warranted to confirm these findings.
Keywords: COVID-19; China; career choice; medical student; pediatrics.
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