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Why do medical students choose psychiatry as their specialty?

13 Sep 2017

There is a big chance that students who enter medical school planning to become psychiatrists do so, a recent study has found. However, most students who choose psychiatry do so during medical school.

To evaluate the timing and stability of student career choice of psychiatry compared with other specialties and to determine what pre- and intramedical school factors correlated with choosing a career in psychiatry, the authors used survey data from students (n=29,713) who graduated from US allopathic medical schools in 2013 and 2014.

The rates of psychiatry specialty choice at the beginning and end of medical school were computed, and the ability of that choice was also assessed. Researchers used multivariate-adjusted logistic regression and recursive partitioning to determine the association of 29 factors with psychiatry specialty choice.

The number of students who chose psychiatry increased from 1.6 percent at the start of medical school to 4.1 percent at graduation. The stability of psychiatry specialty choice from matriculation to graduation was just over 50 percent, greater than for any other specialty. However, almost 80 percent of future psychiatrists did not indicate an inclination toward the specialty at matriculation.

The factors most strongly associated with choosing a career in psychiatry were the following: a rating of “excellent” for the psychiatry clerkship (odds ratio [OR], 2.66), a major in psychology in college (OR, 2.58) and valuing work-life balance (OR, 2.25).

“Increasing the percentage of medical students with undergraduate psychology majors and providing an exemplary psychiatry clerkship are modifiable factors that may increase the rate of psychiatry specialty choice,” researchers said.

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