Medical students' career intentions in Europe: Barriers and opportunities for choosing family medicine as a career

Marta Velgan, Ruth Kalda, Nele Michels, Peter Vajer

Keywords: Family medicine, career, medical education


In the light of population ageing and the growing burden of chronic diseases all over the world, ensuring effective access to continuous, comprehensive and coordinated care is essential and also a big challenge. Medical students' choice of career affects which doctors we will have in the future. The number of medical students who choose family medicine as their career is not sufficient to meet the needs of the health care system in many countries. Shortage of family doctors means a threat for the services provided in primary care, and by extension for the organization of the entire health care system.

Research question(s):

The aim of this study is to describe factors influencing medical students' career intentions in Europe and assess the readiness to choose family medicine as their career.


Cross-sectional study involving medical students from Belgium, Estonia and Hungary was conducted in 2020. Online survey using SurveyMonkey was used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data was analyzed using IBM SPSS. Qualitative data was analyzed using thematic analysis.


1601 medical students completed the questionnaire of which 47.7% were from Belgium, 13.4% from Estonia and 38.9% from Hungary. 72.1% of the students want to start a residency in their home country, 14% plan to go abroad to work or study, 9.8% want to pursue PhD studies in their home country and 4.1% (N=65) have other plans. Surgical specialties were the most popular 1st choice among medical students (22.2% of students). Among other popular specialties were internal medicine specialties (17.5%), pediatric specialties (12.6%), emergency medicine and anesthesiology (10.9%). Only 7.9% of medical students would choose family medicine as their 1st choice.


Comprehensive and multifaceted solutions are needed to increase medical students' interest in the specialty of family medicine.

Points for discussion:

Solutions to increase student interest in family medicine


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