The data is in: First-year medical students supposedly care most about being satisfied with their job. The study looked at how first-year medical students value or rate lifestyle “domains” and specialty-selection characteristics and whether their ratings varied by interest in primary care.

1. Medical students want sat-is-faction.

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In a recent study, by surveying first-year medical students about how they value or rate certain lifestyle factors, researchers found that the highest-rated characteristic was “being satisfied with the job.”

2. Medical students want to spend time with the fam.

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The results showed that all students, regardless of whether or not they were interested in primary-care medicine, valued having time to spend with family.

3. Medical students want balanced lives.

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“Although time for family and balance between work and personal life were important to all first-year students, these specialty characteristics were significantly more important to students who were most interested in practicing primary-care medicine.”

4. Medical students want an enjoyable work day.

The fourth most important thing first-year medical students might consider when choosing a specialty is “having an enjoyable day.” The study authors concluded that “examining the determinants of enjoyable work may inform interventions to help students attain professional fulfillment in primary-care medicine.

5. Medical students want to be stimulated…intellectually stimulated that is.  

When it comes to thinking about their future, first-year medical students say they want “intellectual stimulation of the work” that they are doing and rank this factor as high up on their list as job satisfaction and work-life balance.

6. Medical students want “me time”

According to the results of the study, first-year medical students say that after intellectual stimualation, “having time for myself outside of work” is quite important. Can’t be mad at that!

7. Medical students just want to get along with their co-workers.

Even more important than research opportunities or having a low-stress workday, first-year medical students say that they might consider “collegiality of co-workers” (aka getting along with the people they work with) when it comes time to choose a specialty.

8. Medical students want to know the schedule they will work 

“Having predictable work hours” was among the factors that first-year medical students felt was important when it came to their specialty.

9. Medical students yearn for schedules that are flexible.

Can you spot the trend yet? First-year medical students said that “being able to have a flexible schedule” was on the top half of their list. More than than the money earned or if weekend work was required, first-year medical students reported that they are interested in “opportunities to work with underserved populations.”

What does this all mean?

According to the published report, this study is the first of its kind, as it explored several factors pervious studies had not. Here’s what the authors concluded:

  • “Enjoying work” was the most important lifestyle factor, suggesting that the primary initial motivation for medical students in choosing a specialty is to ultimately engage in meaningful work.
  • Understanding the role of lifestyle in students’ specialty considerations at the beginning of medical school (rather than later) provides an opportunity for comparing the role of lifestyle later, such as when they select their specialty at the end of medical school.
  • Future studies examining what determines a “positive work environment” and “enjoyable work” will help the community to better understand how students can attain professional fulfillment through careers in primary care.

The study was published in the October 2010 issue of Academic Medicine.

(Source: Primary Care, the ROAD Less Traveled: What First-Year Medical Students Want in a Specialty. Academic Medicine. 86(10):1522-1528, October 2013.)