Specialty preferences among final year medical students in medical schools of southeast Nigeria: need for career guidance.BMC Med Educ. 2016 Oct 04; 16(1):259.BM
In resource-poor settings with low doctor-population ratio, there is need for equitable distribution of healthcare workforce. The specialty preferences of medical students determine the future composition of physician workforce hence its relevance in career guidance, healthcare planning and policy formulation. This study was aimed at determining the specialty preferences of final year medical students in medical schools of southeast Nigeria, the gender differences in choice of specialty and the availability of career guidance to the students during the period of training.
A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted among final year medical students in the six accredited medical schools in southeast Nigeria using self-administered semi-structured questionnaire. Information on reason for studying Medicine, specialty preference and career guidance were obtained. Chi-square test of statistical significance was used in the analysis.
A total of 457 students participated in the study with a response rate of 86.7 %. The mean age was 25.5 ± 2.9 years and 57.1 % were male. Majority (51 %) opted to study Medicine in-order to save lives while 89.5 % intended to pursue postgraduate medical training. A higher proportion (51.8 %) made the decision during the period of clinical rotation. The five most preferred specialties among the students were Surgery (24.0 %); Paediatrics (18.8 %); Obstetrics and Gynaecology (15.6 %); Internal Medicine (11.0 %) and Community Medicine (6.8 %) while Pathology (2.0 %); Anaesthesia (0.7 %) and Ear, Nose and Throat (0.2 %), were the least preferred. Compared to females, a higher proportion of male students intended to specialise in Surgery (32.3 % vs 13.0 %, p < 0.001) in contrast to Paediatrics (11.2 % vs 28.8 %, p < 0.001). Majority of the students, 74.6 % had no form of career guidance during their stay in medical school and 11.2 % were undecided on choice of specialty.
In spite of the high proportion of students willing to pursue specialist medical training after graduation, most opted for the four core clinical specialities of Surgery, Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Internal Medicine. Majority of the students made these decisions during clinical rotations. Also, majority had no form of career guidance throughout their stay in medical school. To ensure an equitable distribution of a limited physician workforce in a resource-poor setting, there is need for proper career guidance for the students and this should be in line with the national health needs.