The medical specialties chosen by doctors for their careers play an
important role in the development of health-care services. There are
some recent studies of how different medical specialities are perceived
or how choices are made [1-3].
Several determinants have been identified: the feminisation of
medicine, lifestyle, specialist status and the prospect of future
income, as well as the structural conditions of the various residency
programmes. Most studies addressed medical students, not residents. As
far as we know there appear to be only a few studies on personality
traits, career motivation and personal life goals as influencing
factors on speciality choice .
Since the 1990s, more than half of the medical school graduates in Western countries have been women [5-8].
Although female physicians tend to specialise almost to the same
degree, they enter other specialties than their male colleagues [9-12]. Especially in surgical specialities, female physicians are under-represented . Gender differences in speciality choice can partly be explained as a function of socialisation [14-16], but also by structural operating barriers or closure mechanisms within specific fields [17-19].
Several studies have reported that a so-called controllable
lifestyle has become a determinant in physicians' speciality selection
The following characteristics of a controllable lifestyle have been
defined: personal time free of practice requirements for leisure,
family, and non-vocational pursuits and control of total weekly hours
spent on professional responsibilities. For female physicians the
prospect of combining their professional career with family
responsibilities is a key issue in the process of speciality choice or
changing the speciality to which they initially aspired to .
Status and income
Prestige within the medical profession, social status and income
also play their role in the decision in favour of a medical speciality [23,24]. In some studies, students reported their student debt as one of the factors influencing their career choices [25,26]. Students with large debts tended to choose surgical specialities more often and were less likely to choose primary care.
The application and selection procedures for residency programmes,
the length, quality and structure of the programme, work schedules,
mentorship, annual vacations are also factors which are considered when
choosing a speciality [18,19,24,27,28].
Most studies investigated only one or two of the factors identified
as influencing speciality choice. One has to consider, however, that
Swiss studies addressing issues of speciality choice are lacking to
The aims of this study were to investigate (1) the development of
the residents' speciality choices since graduating from medical school,
and the differences compared to the speciality distribution of working
doctors, and (2) what factors influence the young doctors' speciality
choices. As shown in Figure 1,
we hypothesised that gender and personality traits have an impact on
speciality choice, and that career motivation as well as life goals
have an influence, too. The present paper aimed to examine these