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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Gender differences in medical students’ motives and career choice

Phil JM Heiligers

Author Affiliations

NIVEL - Netherlands institute for health services research, PO Box 1568 3500 BN, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Utrecht University, Faculty of Social sciences, PO Box 80.140 3508 TC, Utrecht, the Netherlands

BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:82  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-82

Published: 23 August 2012

Abstract

Background

The main subject is the influence of gender and the stage of life on the choice of specialty in medical education. In particular we looked at the influence of intrinsic and external motives on this relationship. The choice of specialty was divided into two moments: the choice between medical specialties and general practice; and the preference within medical specialties. In earlier studies the topic of motivation was explored, mostly related to gender. In this study stage of life in terms of living with a partner -or not- and stage of education was added.

Methods

A questionnaire concerning career preferences was used. The online questionnaire was sent to all student members of the KNMG (Royal Dutch Medical Association). 58% of these students responded (N = 2397). Only 1478 responses could be used for analyses (36%). For stipulating the motives that played a role, principal components factor analysis has been carried out. For testing the mediation effect a set of regression analyses was performed: logistic regressions and multiple regressions.

Results

Although basic findings about gender differences in motivations for preferred careers are consistent with earlier research, we found that whether or not living with a partner is determinant for differences in profession-related motives and external motives (lifestyle and social situation). Furthermore living with a partner is not a specific female argument anymore, since no interactions are found between gender and living with a partner. Another issue is that motives are mediating the relationship between, living with a partner, and the choice of GP or medical specialty. For more clarity in the mediating effect of motives a longitudinal study is needed to find out about motives and changing circumstances.

Conclusions

The present study provides a contribution to the knowledge of career aspirations of medical students, especially the impact of motivation. Gender and living with a partner influence both choices, but they are not interacting, so living with a partner is similarly important for male and female students in choosing their preferences. Moreover, external and intrinsic motives mediate this relationship to a greater of lesser degree. First stage students are influenced by life-style and intrinsic motives in their choice of general practice. For second stage students, the results show influences of life-style motives next to profession-related motives on both moments of choice.