Medical school staff who select future medical students cannot predict whether applicants are going to be happy as doctors or not, based on the information given in their application form. The results of a study published today in the open access journal BMC Medical Education shows that the information in a student's personal statement and referees' reports cannot give clues as to whether the applicant would be happy with a career in medicine or not. The study suggests that other methods for assessing personality, such as psychometric testing, might be more effective at identifying candidates who will be happy and satisfied in their careers as doctors.
Chris McManus and colleagues from the University of Nottingham and University College London, in the UK, looked at 80 doctors whose applications for medical school in 1990, including personal statement and referees' reports, were available. These doctors were paired based on the results of a 2002 survey, so that one member of the pair was very happy as a doctor and the other was very dissatisfied with medicine as a career. The pairs of application forms were assessed by 96 assessors - medical school selectors, doctors, medical students or psychology students - whose task was to try to judge from the information given in the application form which of the two doctors was the happy one.
The results of the study show that the assessors cannot judge, from the information on the application form, which of the two doctors is happy and which isn't happy with a career in medicine. Judges are however consistent with one another, and tend to feel that the doctor with higher educational qualifications will be the happier, even though educational qualifications in fact do not predict happiness with a medical career.
Many doctors, in the UK and other countries, are unhappy with their careers. In the UK, a fifth of junior doctors consider leaving medicine.
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Contact: Juliette Savin
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