Background: Interest in a career in Primary Care has alarmingly waned among medical school graduates in Western countries; the number of Primary Care Physicians (PCP) is clearly insufficient to cover future needs. Qualitative studies in which medical students express their interest in a career in Primary Care are scarce.
Objective: To estimate the percentage of medical students planning to start a career in Primary Care, to analyse statements in favour of and against a career in Primary Care given by sixth-year medical students, and to compare these statements with those of younger medical students.
Methods: A questionnaire was mailed to sixth-year medical students in 2008, soliciting three answers in favour of and three answers against a career in Primary Care, and the results were qualitatively assessed and compared to the statements of first- to fourth-year medical students attending continuing medical education. In addition, participants indicated whether or not they aspired to become a PCP.
Results: A total of 2,502 statements in favour of and against a career in primary care were given by 302 sixth year medical students and 112 first- to fourth-year medical students. The overall response rate was 73.8%. The most frequently occurring positive categories, “Experience in Daily Practice” and “Professional Interactions”, accounted for 83% of all positive statements. The most frequently occurring negative category was “Working Conditions” (24.8%). Of the 414 participants, 59 (14.3%) choose to become a PCP (7.1% of first-to fourth-year students versus 16.9% of sixthyear medical students; p=0.012). The analysis of students’ statements detected only few differences between gender, year of study and the interest to become a PCP or not.
Conclusions: The given statements assigned to the different categories highlighted the current difficult and uncertain situation of primary care concerning health policy and income. During medical school, the fraction of those planning to go into PC is slightly increasing. Nonetheless, only a small percentage of medical school graduates intend to become a PCP. Therefore, there is an urgent need to increase the attractiveness of primary care by broadening the PCP’s professional experience, as well as establishing an assured remuneration appropriate to the individual level of specialisation.