Exploring US internal medicine resident career preferences: a Q-methodology study

John K. Roberts*, Micah Schub, Surbhi Singhal, Jamison Norwood, Thomas Cassini, Andi Hudler, Deepa Ramadurai, Christopher C. Smith, Sima S. Desai, Jennifer Weintraub, Scott H. Hasler, Tyler M. Schwiesow, Geoffrey R. Connors, Aashish Didwania, Charles W. Hargett, Myles Wolf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Career selection in medicine is a complex and underexplored process. Most medical career studies performed in the U.S. focused on the effect of demographic variables and medical education debt on career choice. Considering ongoing U.S. physician workforce shortages and the trilateral adaptive model of career decision making, a robust assessment of professional attitudes and work-life preferences is necessary. The objective of this study was to explore and define the dominant viewpoints related to career choice selection in a cohort of U.S. IM residents. We administered an electronic Q-sort in which 218 IM residents sorted 50 statements reflecting the spectrum of opinions that influence postgraduate career choice decisions. Participants provided comments that explained the reasoning behind their individual responses. In the final year of residency training, we ascertained participating residents’ chosen career. Factor analysis grouped similar sorts and revealed four distinct viewpoints. We characterized the viewpoints as “Fellowship-Bound-Academic,” “Altruistic-Longitudinal-Generalist,” “Inpatient-Burnout-Aware,” and “Lifestyle-Focused-Consultant.” There is concordance between residents who loaded significantly onto a viewpoint and their ultimate career choice. Four dominant career choice viewpoints were found among contemporary U.S. IM residents. These viewpoints reflect the intersection of competing priorities, personal interests, professional identity, socio-economic factors, and work/life satisfaction. Better appreciation of determinants of IM residents’ career choices may help address workforce shortages and enhance professional satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-686
Number of pages18
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Career decision
  • Internal medicine
  • Medical education research
  • Postgraduate
  • Psychometrics
  • Q-methodology
  • Q-sort

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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