The Class of 1989 and post-MD training

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Abstract

Background

"The Class of 1989" is a longitudinal study of 1722 people who were awarded an MD degree by a Canadian university in 1989. This paper reports on the details of their post-MD training up to spring 1996.

Methods

Several medical professional and educational associations in Canada and the United States provided year-by-year information on field and location of post-MD training, certification achieved, whether in practice and location of practice through to spring 1996. Information from all sources was linked to a list of 1989 medical school graduates.

Results

Of the 1722 graduates 57 (3.3%) never entered post-MD training in Canada; 147 (8.5%) did 1 or more years of training in the United States. A total of 222 graduates (12.9%) took a break of at least 1 year from training, and 301 (17.5%) changed their choice of field or specialty after starting training. Substantial numbers took 1 or more years longer to complete training than would be expected based on the prescribed length of the training program chosen. The field or specialty choices of the cohort produced a generalist:specialist ratio of 58:42. The final numbers in several fields depended heavily on trainees changing their initial career choice.

Interpretation

The data point out widely differing and often very long lead times from start to completion of training. Since 1993, changes to licensure requirements have reduced opportunities for recent graduating cohorts to delay final career choices, take a break in training, prolong training or change initial career choices. Rigidities in the post-1993 training environment point to the emergence of a number of serious problems, such as dissatisfaction and high anxiety levels among residents, licensing authorities being faces with people who have not completed a training program to certification, and insufficient provision of positions for post-MD training because of underestimates of the time needed to complete training programs. The insights gained from this study lead to the recognition that planning the specialty distribution of the physician workforce is highly complex and difficult.

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