Swedish medical students' expectations of their future life

Saima Diderichsen1, Jenny Andersson1, Eva E. Johansson1, Petra Verdonk2, Antoine Lagro-Janssen3 and Katarina Hamberg1

1Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine, Umeå University, Sweden

2VU University Medical Center, Dept. Medical Humanities, EMGO Institute for health and care research, The Netherlands

3Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Department of Primary and Community Care, Centre for Family Medicine, Geriatric and Public Health. Unit Women’s Studies Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Submitted: 13/09/2011; Accepted: 17/11/2011; Published: 24/11/2011

Int J Med Educ. 2011; 2:140-146; doi: 10.5116/ijme.4ec5.92b8

© 2011 Saima Diderichsen et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: To investigate future life expectations among male and female medical students in their first and final year.

Methods: The study was cross-sectional and conducted at a Swedish medical school. Out of 600 invited students, 507 (85%) answered an open-ended question about their future life, 298 (59%) first-year students and 209 (41%) last-year students. Women constituted 60% of the respondents. A mixed model design was applied; qualitative content analysis was utilized to create statistically comparable themes and categories.

Results: Students' written answers were coded, categorized and clustered into four themes: "Work", "Family", "Leisure" and "Quality of personal life". Almost all students included aspects of work in their answers. Female students were more detailed than male ones in their family concerns. Almost a third of all students reflected on a future work-life balance, but considerations regarding quality of personal life and leisure were more common among last-year students.

Conclusions: Today's medical students expect more of life than work, especially those standing on the doorstep of working life. They intend to balance work not only with a family but also with leisure activities. Our results reflect work attitudes that challenge the health care system for more adaptive working conditions. We suggest that discussions about work-life balance should be included in medical curricula.