Specialty career preferences among final year medical students at Makerere University College of health sciences, Uganda: a mixed methods study

Job Kuteesa, Victor Musiime, Ian Munabi, Aloysius Mubuuke, Robert Opoka, David Mukunya, Sarah Kiguli

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Background: Uganda has an imbalanced distribution of the health workforce, which may be influenced by the specialty career preferences of medical students. In spite of this, there is inadequate literature concerning the factors influencing specialty career preferences. We aimed to determine the specialty career preferences and the factors influencing the preferences among fifth year medical students in the School of Medicine, Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS).

Methods: A sequential explanatory mixed methods study design with a descriptive cross-sectional study followed by a qualitative study was used. A total of 135 final year medical students in MakCHS were recruited using consecutive sampling. Self-administered questionnaires and three focus group discussions were conducted. Quantitative data was analysed in STATA version 13 (StataCorp, College Station, Tx, USA) using descriptive statistics, chi-square tests and logistic regression. Qualitative data was analysed in NVIVO version 12 (QRS International, Cambridge, MA) using content analysis.

Results: Of 135 students 91 (67.4%) were male and their median age was 24 years (IQR: 24, 26). As a first choice, the most preferred specialty career was obstetrics and gynecology (34/135, 25.2%), followed by surgery (27/135, 20.0%), pediatrics (18/135, 13.3%) and internal medicine (17/135, 12.6%). Non-established specialties such as anesthesia and Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) were not selected as a first choice by any student. Female students had 63% less odds of selecting surgical related specialties compared to males (aOR = 0.37, 95%CI: 0.17–0.84). The focus group discussions highlighted controlled lifestyle, assurance of a good life through better financial remuneration and inspirational specialists as facilitators for specialty preference. Bad experience during the clinical rotations, lack of career guidance plus perceived poor and miserable specialists were highlighted as barriers to specialty preference.

Conclusion: Obstetrics and Gynecology, Surgery, Pediatrics and Internal Medicine are well-established disciplines, which were dominantly preferred. Females were less likely to select surgical disciplines as a career choice. Therefore, there is a need to implement or establish career guidance and mentorship programs to attract students to the neglected disciplines.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalPaediatrics and Child Health, East Africa
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

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