Junior doctors' early career choices do not predict career destination in neurology: 40 years of surveys of UK medical graduates.
Barat A., Goldacre MJ., Lambert TW.
BACKGROUND: The rapidly rising rates of brain diseases due to the growing ageing population and the explosion in treatment options for many neurological conditions increase the demand for neurologists. We report trends in doctors' career choices for neurology; investigate factors driving their choices; and compare doctors' original choices with their specialty destinations. METHODS: A multi-cohort, multi-purpose nation-wide study using both online and postal questionnaires collected data on career choice, influencing factors, and career destinations. UK-trained doctors completed questionnaires at one, three, five, and ten years after qualification. They were classified into three groups: graduates of 1974-1983, graduates of 1993-2002, and graduates of 2005-2015. RESULTS: Neurology was more popular among graduates of 2005-2015 than earlier graduates; however, its attraction for graduates of 2005-2015 doctors reduced over time from graduation. A higher percentage of men than women doctors chose neurology as their first career choice. For instance, among graduates of 2005-2015, 2.2% of men and 1.1% of women preferred neurology as first choice in year 1. The most influential factor on career choice was "enthusiasm for and commitment to the specialty" in all cohorts and all years after graduation. Only 39% who chose neurology in year 1 progressed to become neurologists later. Conversely, only 28% of practicing neurologists in our study had decided to become neurologists in their first year after qualification. By year 3 this figure had risen to 65%, and by year 5 to 76%. CONCLUSIONS: Career decision-making among UK medical graduates is complicated. Early choices for neurology were not highly predictive of career destinations. Some influential factors in this process were identified. Improving mentoring programmes to support medical graduates, provide career counselling, develop professionalism, and increase their interest in neurology were suggested.