Objective: We sought to examine the attitudes of newly recruited medical students towards psychiatry and other specialties to determine what factors influence their career choice options.
Method: We surveyed the attitudes of 655 medical students using a 31-item self-report questionnaire.
Results: Australian medical students rated the ability to help patients as the most important aspect of a specialty in determining their choice. Attraction to psychiatry was based on the specialty being interesting and intellectually challenging, and providing a career that promised job satisfaction with good prospects and enjoyable work. Females expressed a greater interest in psychiatry and were more likely to consider pursuing it as a career, principally due to a greater interest in the subject matter and a stronger desire for interaction with patients. The least attractive aspects of psychiatry were its lack of prestige among the medical community and a perceived absence of a scientific foundation.
Conclusion: The attitudes of medical students can perhaps be modified and recruitment into psychiatry enhanced by presenting the reality of psychiatry today − namely the wide range of available therapeutic processes, the predominantly positive outcomes, the interesting and intellectually challenging nature of the subject and its nurturing and accommodating work environment.