“Cold feet”: A qualitative study of medical students who seriously considered emergency medicine but chose another specialty

Arvin R. Akhavan*, Amy V. Kontrick, Haley Egan, Stephanie A. Balint, Bryan G. Kane, Joseph B. House, Charles S. Graffeo, Daniel Mark Courtney, Dave W Lu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Emergency medicine (EM) has historically been among the most competitive specialties in the United States. However, in 2022 and 2023, 219 of 2921 and 554 of 3010 respective National Resident Matching Program positions were initially unfilled. Medical students’ selection of a medical specialty is a complex process. To better understand recent trends in the EM residency match, this qualitative study explored through one-on-one interviews the rationale of senior medical students who seriously considered EM but ultimately pursued another specialty. Methods: A convenience sample of senior medical students from across the United States was recruited via multiple mechanisms after the 2023 match. Participant characteristics were collected via an online survey. Qualitative data were generated through a series of one-on-one semistructured interviews and thematic analysis of the data was performed using a constant comparative approach. Results: Sixteen senior medical students from 12 different institutions participated in the study. Thematic saturation was reached after 12 interviews but data from all 16 interviews were included for qualitative analyses. Five major themes emerged as important in students’ consideration but ultimate rejection of EM as a career: (1) innate features of EM attracted or dissuaded students, (2) widespread awareness of a recent workforce report, (3) burnout in EM, (4) their perception of EM's standing in the health care landscape, and (5) early EM experience and exposure. Conclusions: This qualitative study identified five major themes in the career decisions of senior medical students who seriously considered EM but chose another specialty. These findings may help inform the perceptions of students and guide future EM recruitment efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere10967
JournalAEM Education and Training
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Education
  • Emergency

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