Summer Salad

January/February 2009


Choosing general practice

A review of career choice determinants

Volume 38, No.1, January/February 2009 Pages 53-55

Narelle Shadbolt

Jeremy Bunker

This review takes a narrative synthesis approach – a systematic approach to interpreting complex evidence – to a broad literature review of the complex issue of medical career decision making. Addressing the Australian general practice workforce crisis requires an understanding of career choice motivators. The biggest recruitment losses are those not ever considering general practice as a career. Although flexibility and work-life balance are important motivators, more important is the perceived intellectual challenge of the career. Most career decisions are made in the early postgraduate years when doctors have little general practice exposure and many form incorrect perceptions. The morale and self esteem of the general practice profession has an important impact on choice. Every general practice encounter is an opportunity to showcase the profession as an intellectually stimulating, challenging and interesting career choice.

The general practice workforce is in crisis in Australia. Current estimates indicate a shortfall of 400–500 new general practitioners every year to balance an aging workforce, a diminishing generalist medical workforce, and increasing losses from retirement and disenchantment. The number of medical student places has increased, but there is an urgent need to increase the percentage of doctors choosing general practice. Understanding the motivators of career choice may help the profession market itself to attract those who will enjoy and sustain a general practice career.

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