Background In the UK, recruitment of adequate numbers of doctors to emergency medicine (EM) has been problematic. With this as background, we analysed data about career choice for, and progression in, EM in a large multi-purpose study of doctors’ careers.
Methods Questionnaire surveys of medical graduates of 1993, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2009 from all UK medical schools.
Results EM was specified as a first choice of career by 4.2% of graduates in postgraduate year 1, 4.8% in year 3, and 3.8% in year 5. Graduates who chose EM were much less likely to be certain about their choice than those who chose other specialties. Of those who specified EM as their first choice of career in year 1, only 26% still had it as their first choice in year 5. Of those who gave EM as their first career choice in year 5, only 27% had given EM as their first choice in year 1. Switches to EM were made, notably, by doctors who previously favoured surgical specialties, hospital physician-led specialties and anaesthetics.
Conclusions Early career choices for EM are less predictive of career destinations than choices for other specialties, and, compared with many other specialties, doctors who pursue it may turn to it relatively late. Training policies on transferable competencies should enable clinical trainees in other related specialties to bank some of their skills if they transfer to EM, rather than necessarily having to start core training in year 1 of EM specialty training.
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