Motivation for medical school: the relationship to gender and specialty preferences in a nationwide sample

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Abstract

Objectives

Motivation for going to medical school and career plans of a 1 year cohort of students entering medical school in Norway (n = 420 response rate: 90%, 54% women, mean age: 22 years) were surveyed by a postal questionnaire the first month after they had started.

Design

Motives for choosing medicine were categorized into three indexes: 'people orientated', 'status/security orientated' and 'natural science orientated' motives.

Setting

University of Oslo.

Subjects

Medical students.

Results

Students picked out which they preferred among 53 specialties. The highest motivational scores were on the 'person orientated' index, female students scoring higher than men. Female students were, however, nearly as highly motivated by status/security and interests in natural science as were men. 'Person orientated' and 'natural science orientated' motives exerted the strongest influence on specialty preferences. Those who preferred family medicine were more person orientated and less natural science orientated, while those who preferred internal medicine were more natural science orientated. Father being a physician did not influence the motivational pattern, but increased the preference for laboratory and internal medicine. Frequently repeated upper secondary school exams for acceptance into medical school were negatively related to natural science motivation, and to increased preference for becoming a surgeon.

Conclusions

In this first month of the curriculum students regarded person oriented motives as the most important for becoming a doctor.

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