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November 14, 1994

Third-Year Medical Student Attitudes Toward Internal Medicine

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Medicine, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Tex (Dr Marple), and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md (Drs Pangaro and Kroenke).

Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(21):2459-2464. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420210097011

Background:  Student attitudes offer insight into career decisions and may suggest causes of the diminished interest in internal medicine. Students entering a salaried managed health care environment may have different attitudes about careers and potential income. Additionally, we evaluate the effect of an ambulatory experience on student attitudes and career selection.

Methods:  We surveyed 163 medical students from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md, at the successful completion of the third year to determine their attitudes regarding the work, life-style, prestige, patient type, and challenge of internal medicine, as well as primary care interest, and the importance of income in career selection. A subgroup of 107 volunteers was randomized to either the traditional internal medicine clerkship (n=69), or to 6 weeks of ambulatory medicine and 6 weeks of ward medicine (n=38).

Results:  The selection rate was low for internal medicine (10%) and was high for family practice and transitional internships (37%). Although most students highly valued their internal medicine training, relatively few selected internal medicine as a career. Students saw chronic illness and type of work, but not lifestyle, as disincentives toward choosing an internal medicine career. Half of the students believed that income potential would be a major factor in attracting students into internal medicine, and that reimbursement should be shifted from procedural fields to primary care. The ambulatory clerkship did not affect student attitudes nor type of internship selected.

Conclusions:  Medicine clerkships, whether traditional or ambulatory, are highly valued educational experiences yet may be insufficient by themselves to attract students to an internal medicine career. Income potential remains an important concern in the setting of salaried managed care, even for students who lack financial debt.(Arch Intern Med. 1994;154:2459-2464)

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