Objective: Research on how medical students choose a career in pediatrics is either dated or conflated with primary care career choice. Capitalizing on student participation in an innovative, time-variable, competency based pathway program, Education in Pediatrics Across the Continuum (EPAC), the authors explored the process of career decision-making in students at 5 medical schools (including 4 EPAC sites) who begin medical school with an interest in pediatrics. Methods: Individual, semistructured interviews were conducted with students in 5 groups: Group 1: accepted into EPAC, n = 8; Group 2: accepted into EPAC, opted-out, n = 4; Group 3 applied to EPAC, not accepted, pursued pediatrics, n = 4; Group 4: applied to EPAC, not accepted, did not pursue pediatrics, n = 3; Group 5: pursued pediatrics at a non-EPAC site, n = 6. Data collection and analysis occurred iteratively, with inductive coding of data revealing patterns in data explored in subsequent interviews and refined in the final analysis. Results: All students described intrinsic guiding principles, that is, “doing what you love,” that attracted them to pediatrics. They described extrinsic, phase-specific experiences before medical school, before clerkship, and in clerkship that shaped their perceptions of a career in pediatrics and shed light on collective values of different specialties. Student's assessment of how their guiding principles aligned with the collective values of pediatrics, which students encountered in the clerkship phase, was a key to making career decisions. Conclusions: Intrinsic and extrinsic factors do not act alone but interact in clerkships, and influence career choice of students who enter medical school with an interest in pediatrics.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors wish to thank the medical students and interns who shared experiences and inspired this study. They also wish to thank Dr Boyd Richards and Dr Nicole Borges for their thoughtful review of this manuscript. Funding Source: No funding was secured for this study.
- career advisement
- career choice
- medical student
- pathway programs
- specialty choice