Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to medical education systems and medical students. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on medical career and specialty choices among medical students. An online cross-sectional survey of Chinese medical students was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic from February to April 2020. The students' willingness to be a doctor before and after the COVID-19 pandemic and changed willingness to specialize in respiratory medicine and infectious diseases were investigated. Multiple linear regression and binary logistic regression was used to explore factors that were associated with changes of willingness. A total of 1,837 medical students, including 1,227 females (66.8%), with a median age of 21.0 years, were recruited. Of the participants, 10.6% and 6.9% showed increased and decreased willingness to be a doctor after the COVID-19 outbreak, respectively. Moreover, 11.7% showed increased willingness and 9.5% showed decreased willingness to major in respiratory medicine and infectious diseases. Students with younger age, lower household income, fewer depressive symptoms, less exposure to negative pandemic information and more satisfaction with their own major after the pandemic were associated with increased willingness to be a doctor. Students who engaged in regular exercise, were males and undergraduate level, were interested in medicine, paid more attention to positive information, were satisfied with their majors, and had increased willingness to be a doctor after the pandemic were more likely to choose to specialize in respiratory medicine and infectious disease. However, the severity of anxiety symptoms was associated with decreased willingness to work in the specialties of respiratory medicine and infectious diseases. Psychological problems and professional satisfaction appear to be independent factors that affect medial career and specialty choices. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical students require further research.
Keywords: COVID-19; career choice; medical students; psychological problems; specialty choice.