Objective: Emergency medicine has been identified as the specialty that has gained the most young physicians who have changed their careers. To identify factors that may have contributed to such career changes, the authors compared the characteristics of three groups of physicians trained at their medical school: those who chose and stayed in emergency medicine, those who migrated into emergency medicine from other specialties, and those who moved out of emergency medicine.
Methods: A prospective longitudinal study was conducted. The sample consisted of physicians who chose emergency medicine as their careers at graduation and stayed in the specialty (n = 24), those who migrated from other specialties into emergency medicine (n = 51), and those who moved out of emergency medicine (n = 10). This sample was obtained from a total of 2,173 graduates of Jefferson Medical College between 1978 and 1987. The three groups of physicians were compared according to their academic performances both during medical school and after graduation. The dependent variables were freshmen and sophomore grade point averages (GPAs), written clinical examination scores, scores on National Board of Medical Examiners examination (Parts I, II, and III), and residency program directors' ratings. Age and indebtedness at medical school graduation and board certification status also were examined.
Results: Those physicians who stayed in emergency medicine and those who migrated from other specialties into emergency medicine had similar measures of academic performance, but both of these groups had higher academic performance measures and higher board certification rates than did the physicians who moved out of emergency medicine. Those who stayed in emergency medicine had the highest mean debt in the senior year of medical school.
Conclusions: High academic performance and high indebtedness are factors associated with choosing or staying in the specialty of emergency medicine.