Aims The increasing numbers of UK medical students should lead to an increase in UK paediatricians. Recent research, however, shows a fall in the number of foundation trainees selecting paediatrics as their specialty choice. The aims of this study were to survey the views of medical students about a career in paediatrics.
Method A 28-item questionnaire was distributed to final year medical students doing paediatrics as the last module in their clinical rotation.
Results 97% responded (127/131) with 55% (70/127) students being male. A majority were single (94%, 120/127) and aged between 21 and 24 years (78%, 99/127). A career in paediatrics was considered by 29% of students prior to their paediatric attachment. Less than half (42%, 53/127) had enjoyed their clinical attachment. However, students had found paediatricians to be enthusiastic (80%, 101/127) and keen on teaching (67%, 85/127) with a good ward atmosphere (66%, 84/127). Following their attachment, 50% of students said they would consider paediatrics as a career. However, many viewed paediatrics as a difficult specialty with high competition for training posts and long hours. High profile media cases worried only 9% (11/127). Students reported that paediatrics was too emotional and clinical experience too limited for them to make a choice. Others felt their experience of paediatrics was negative due to cancelled teaching or being attached to highly specialised firms. Some students had already chosen an alternative career prior to the paediatric module and felt early exposure, career advice or taster weeks in paediatrics early in undergraduate training would have been useful.
Conclusion In order to safeguard future paediatric services, it is important to inspire medical students about a career in paediatrics. A focus on improving clinical paediatric attachments in final year training will not suffice. Student interactions with paediatric patients need to start from year one. Early careers advice and guidance needs to be introduced into the curriculum to dispel current myths regarding paediatric career options. Such changes will need to involve stronger working links between Schools of Paediatrics, Trusts and Higher Education Institutions.
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