Career Focus

What do medical students think of flexible training?

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7121.2 (Published 06 December 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:S2-7121
  1. Aparna Sinha, Medical student,
  2. Alison Cook, Medical student
  1. University of Birmingham Medical School

    Birmingham medical students Aparna Sinha and Alison Cook surveyed their colleagues, who expressed considerable interest. Workforce planners take note…


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    Flexible training provides an extremely valuable opportunity for doctors - male or female - who in the face of external pressures wish to continue practising medicine. The most important determinants of career choice among both male and female medical students in an Australian survey,1 seemed to be “the opportunity for part time training, flexible working hours and part time practice.” These factors were more important to women than to men.

    Our study examines the attitudes and awareness of medical students towards flexible training opportunities. We distributed a questionnaire to students in the first, third, and fifth years at Birmingham medical school during May and June 1996. Data from the questionnaires were analysed with two computer packages: EpiInfo, and Stats View.

    Results and discussion

    The overall response rate was 61% (328/540). The response rate was 58% (145/249) for men and 63% (183/291) for women. For first year students it was 57% (107/189), third year students 57% (94/166), and fifth year students 73% (121/166). Analysis showed that there were no significant differences between men and women or between the years with regard to ethnic group, age, marital status, and parity.

    Summary points

    • 95% of medical students considered flexible training a good idea

    • 76% of medical students (96% of women and 51% of men) would consider undertaking flexible training in the future

    • Of the 24% of students who would not consider flexible training, 81% thought it a good idea

    • The reason most commonly given for considering flexible training was “family commitments.” “Maintaining interests outside medicine” and “future unforeseen circumstances” were also commonly given

    • 46% of students had not heard of flexible training before - of whom 77% would consider flexible training

    In all, 54% of students in our study were aware of flexible training before reading our questionnaire. Awareness of flexible training increased with year of medical school …

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