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The purpose of this study was to identify differences in ophthalmology resident …

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- A Study of Prospective Ophthalmology Residents’ Career Perceptions

JR Scott, EdD, MPH and CA Gunderson, MD

Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences;
University of Texas Medical Branch

Abstract: Objectives: The purpose of this study was to identify differences in ophthalmology resident candidates and practicing ophthalmologists’ career perceptions. A secondary aim was to evaluate specific demographic factors (e.g., gender, ethnicity, career interests, etc.) among residency candidates regarding their career perceptions.
Methods: A survey instrument (Critical factors in Career Perceptions) was sent by e-mail to prospective residents (n= 122). Group differences were calculated using a one sample t-test analysis.
Results: Compared to practicing ophthalmologists (n = 56), residency candidates were more likely (p < 0.05) to expect greater professional job satisfaction from a number of career factors (e.g., time with patients, physician teamwork, etc.); family-personal factors (e.g., diversity of job skills, sole professional responsibility, etc.); and financial factors (i.e., income and security) than those in practice. Gender differences between candidates revealed that women were more interested in spending time with patients and in computer technology applications.
Conclusions: These results suggest that medical school and residency program leaders to consider specific factors ophthalmologists encounter in their profession so that residency candidates have a more realistic view of their chosen profession. Several recommendations for resident recruitment and curriculum development are provided.

Key Words: resident career perceptions; ophthalmology career satisfaction; ethics/professionalism

Med Educ Online [serial online] 2003;8:9. Available from


Personal as well as professional goals, values, and interests are often formulated prior to commencing a professional career. Applicants to residency programs frequently chose their field of specialty based upon rather naive perceptions of that specialty. These initial perceptions may differ from those of physicians practicing within that specialty and may differ by the applicant’s gender. Although their viewpoints are further refined during residency, significant career choices are based on those initial perceptions. In particular, understanding the career perceptions of ophthalmology resident applicants may provide a greater understanding of their unique capabilities and preferences for this medical specialty. In fact, ophthalmology is recognized as a medical specialty for the high degree of patient contact across all age groups; the amount of surgical procedures; and the potential for a favorable life-style.1 Not surprisingly, long-term physician job satisfaction is shown to relate to career turnover2 as well as satisfaction during the residency training experience.3

     The purpose of this study was to more accurately assess and describe the perceptions of ophthalmology residency training candidates towards their chosen profession. By understanding these perceptions, residency programs may be better able to select applicants able to achieve greater career satisfaction.

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