Career Focus


BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 18 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:S3-7139

Doctors' stated reasons for deciding upon a particular specialty have changed little over the century according to a recent American survey (Academic Medicine 1998;73:313-7). The authors report on six decades of data gathered from almost 5 000 Yale alumni. Intellectual curiosity about the chosen specialty, altruistic ideals about helping others, and congruence between the specialty and the individual's own rating of personality were the most important factors that the doctors gave for choosing a specialty. The perceived demands that the specialty would make on the doctors' time, likely stress levels, and levels of malpractice insurance were all consistently rated as less important. Plainly, doctors have not lost the ability to say the right things on an application form; but it tells us less about the more important questionÑwere they suited to their specialty when they finally qualified in it?

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