Improving the attractiveness of an emergency medicine career to medical students: An exploratory study


  • Antonio Celenza, MBBS, MClinEd, FACEM, FCEM, Winthrop Professor of Emergency Medicine and Medical Education; Jude Bharath, MBBS, Registrar in Emergency Medicine; Jason Scop, MBChB, FACEM, Emergency Physician.

Correspondence: Professor Antonio Celenza, Emergency Medicine, Level 2, R Block, QE II Medical Centre, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia. Email:



To describe perceptions of medical students and emergency doctors towards careers in emergency medicine (EM), and to identify influences on career choice.


A prospective, cross-sectional questionnaire study was performed in three EDs. The instrument used Likert-type items addressing: factors important in the choice of a career, factors offered by a career in EM, and opinions of EM. EM consultants and registrars and a cohort of final-year medical students participated.


Overall, 22 consultants, 30 registrars and 164 students completed the questionnaire (77.1% overall response). Student interest in an EM career increased from 10/161 (6.2% [95% CI 3.0–11.1%]) before, to 26/137 (19.0% [95% CI 12.8–26.6%]) after an EM attachment (P = 0.0014). The highest proportion of students chose work–life balance as being an important factor for career choice (143/163 students, 87.7% [95% CI 81.2–92.6%]). Compared with consultants and registrars, students had negative perceptions about lifestyle factors that EM offered, as well as about the future of the specialty, job security and workplace stress. Some students also preferred careers with opportunities for research, subspecialty practice, and better pay and conditions, yet perceived EM as not offering these factors. Students considered EM as an acute, procedural, public hospital specialty, with diverse patient problems and minimal continuity of care. Smaller proportions of students considered these factors important for career choice.


Increasing the attractiveness of a career in EM requires changing student perceptions of lifestyle and satisfaction benefits, access to EM subspecialties, increasing ED research, information about job security, and improved work conditions.