Three in 10 Physicians Knew Calling by Age 12, Survey Says

March 30, 2017

Twenty-nine percent of physicians and physicians in training realized that they wanted to pursue a career in medicine by 12 years of age, according to a new survey from the American Medical Association (AMA) that paints a picture of a still idealistic profession.

The online survey of 400 medical students, 400 residents, and 400 practicing physicians also found that 73% of respondents knew they wanted to be in the profession before they turned 20 years of age.

Most respondents said personal experiences as a patient or healthcare volunteer, or with an ailing family member, helped shape their interest in medicine, according to survey results released today. And most physicians and medical students described their career as a calling.

Three fourths of respondents said helping others was their top reason for becoming a physician, ahead of intellectual pursuit at 63%. Overall, 90% said they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their choice of profession, with medical students (94%) more satisfied overall than residents (88%) and practicing physicians (88%).

Physician and trainee satisfaction with career choice is higher…

Respondent

Very or Somewhat Satisfied (%)

Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied (%)

Somewhat Dissatisfied or Not at All Satisfied (%)

All respondents

90

5

6

Medical students

94

4

4

Residents

88

6

7

Practicing

physicians

88

5

7

 

…than the inclination to encourage others to enter the field.

Respondent

Very or Somewhat Likely (%)

Neutral (%)

Not Very or Not at All Likely (%)

All respondents

61

27

13

Medical students

70

24

7

Residents

57

28

15

Practicing

physicians

56

29

16

 

The relative youthfulness of the individuals surveyed may help account for the rosy results. Ninety-six percent of respondents were 40 years of age or younger.

To be sure, the AMA survey delved into negative territory. Physicians, residents, and medical students identified administrative burden (54%), stress (49%), and lack of time (43%) as the top challenges they face. Long hours and on-call schedules ranked in the top three for 52% of residents.

Thirteen percent of survey takers said they harbored persistent doubts about their choice of career, with more than half of those individuals citing burnout as their main reason why. A bigger swathe of medical students and physicians appeared to have doubts about recommending a medical career to others. Although 61% said they would encourage others to enter the field, 40% were neutral about making this recommendation (27%) or were not very likely (10%) or not at all likely to do so (3%). Medical students (70%) were far more inclined to encourage someone else to follow in their footsteps than were residents (56%) and practicing physicians (56%).

Follow Robert Lowes on Twitter @LowesRobert

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