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Recruitment and retention in paediatrics: challenges, opportunities and practicalities
  1. Hannah Jacob1,
  2. Shanthi Shanmugalingam2,
  3. Camilla Kingdon3
  1. 1Department of Paediatrics, Whittington Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Paediatrics, Barnet Hospital, London, UK
  3. 3Neonatal Unit, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Camilla Kingdon, Neonatal Unit, St Thomas' Hospital, 6th Floor, North Wing, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH, UK; Camilla.kingdon{at}

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Paediatrics is a popular specialty with medical students who enjoy its variety, fun and multi-professional working. This enthusiasm is often not reflected in applications to specialty training and in many countries, paediatrics is less popular than medicine, surgery and family medicine.1 More worryingly, paediatric training programmes are finding it increasingly difficult to retain doctors, with a consequent increase in rota gaps. In the UK, for example, applications to commence paediatric training were down 11.5% in 2016 compared with the number of applications filed in 2015.2 Here, we identify some strategies for improving paediatric training which may help to alleviate this problem.


Medical student experience is very important when choosing a specialty.3 The child health placement is an ideal opportunity to capture student enthusiasm and promote paediatrics as an appealing specialty choice.4 Many medical schools have moved to vertically integrated courses which focus on longer clerkships, giving the chance to follow patients for several months. This promotes earlier definitive career choices and increases preparedness for specialty training.5 Programmes such as these increase exposure to child health early in the medical course, which may encourage students to undertake paediatric special study modules or electives, thereby encouraging them to select paediatrics as a career.6

Students need support during their early encounters with children and families as this can be daunting and may deter interested students from pursuing a career in child health.7 It is imperative that students are encouraged to give meaningful feedback on their placements and that changes are implemented in response. In some countries, students interested in paediatrics are encouraged to select additional courses which may nurture this interest.8

Box 1 offers some suggestions for engaging medical students in child health.

Box 1

Suggestions for ways of engaging medical students in child health …

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  • Contributors HJ drafted the initial manuscript. SS and CK provided expert critique of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests HJ is a member of the London School of Paediatrics Trainees' Committee, Supporting Trainees subgroup. She is also trainee representative of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Recruitment Board. SS is a training programme director of the London Specialty School of Paediatrics. CK is head of the London Specialty School of Paediatrics and Child Health and a training programme director.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.