The decreasing availability of surgical physicians is a concern in most countries. In the past decade, total physician manpower in Taiwan increased by 12%, but the number of surgical physicians decreased by 11%. Medical students are not inclined to choose surgery as a career - this study examines the factors involved in students' career choices. This study was conducted from January 2011 to April 2011. In total, 401 interns successfully completed questionnaires; this population makes up 34% of all interns in Taiwan. The structural questionnaire was designed to investigate factors affecting specialty decisions, with additional open-ended questions to investigate students' preferences in career specialty. Based on the research findings, the 3 most relevant factors in decreasing order of priority are personal interest, career-oriented lifestyle, and specialty characteristics (including workload and stress). For students likely to become surgical physicians, concerns about the work environment include the balance between work and family, wages that are incompatible with the workload, and the shortage of manpower on duty. Addressing the following concerns would increase medical students' likelihood of choosing a career in surgery: the need for a facilitator to help mitigate medical disputes and legal problems, decreased work hours, and decreased on-call duty hours. This study shows both motivating and discouraging factors affecting whether medical students choose surgery as a career. The purpose of this study is to strengthen the incentives for medical students to choose surgery as a career and to minimize the influence of factors that negatively affect such a choice.
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