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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

The road to becoming a doctor isn't always smooth. The path can be littered with barriers to success, and the COVID pandemic may have complicated matters further, as students conveyed in Medscape's Medical Student Lifestyle Report.

Medscape surveyed 2182 US medical students between April 7 and May 22, 2022, about such issues as medical debt, burnout, unwanted advances, and biases.

(Note: Some totals in this presentation do not equal 100% due to rounding.)

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Students choose a medical education for a variety of reasons. A desire to help those in need, an interest in science, and feeling a "call" toward medicine are among the leading factors influencing medical school attendance. Other common reasons cited include experience with personal and family health challenges.

Tyler LeComer, a third-year student and class president of Harvard Medical School, said that his interest in engineering and physics led to a desire to "help people live their fullest lives from behind the scenes." He also wanted to be a role model and improve the world of medicine for Black persons and other people of color, he said.

Men more often than women chose financial compensation (46% vs 26%), the prestige of a medical career (42% vs 34%), and a mentor/teacher's influence (28% vs 23%) as reasons to apply. Women more often cite feeling a "calling" toward medicine (71% vs 63%).

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Internal medicine, family medicine, emergency medicine, and psychiatry are among the top specialty choices.

Men are more likely than women to have chosen anesthesiology (9% vs 4%), radiology (6% vs 3%), and urology (2% vs 1%).

Women are more likely than men to have chosen family medicine (13% vs 9%), ob/gyn (11% vs 1%), pediatrics (11% vs 3%), and general surgery (6% vs 3%).

Of the respondents, 64% have chosen a specialty, while 28% have narrowed it down to a few but haven't yet decided. Not included in the chart are the specialties that garnered 1% or no responses.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Third- and fourth-year students cited career opportunities as a bigger factor than did students in their first 2 years of med school.

Among those who cited "other" reasons for choosing their specialty, the Match process came into play for a few respondents, with a student selecting a specialty because they either matched into it or didn't match into their top choice.

Women (72%) are more likely to cite personal interest in the field than are men (64%). Men (22%) are somewhat more likely to cite lifestyle than are women (17%).

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Three quarters of students surveyed consider future earnings to be very important/important.

LeComer said that he wishes finances didn't have to be part of the equation when choosing a specialty. "No matter what specialty a medical student goes into, they will make more money than the average citizen, but the extremely high cost of medical training forces financial compensation into the discussion."

Importance of earnings has increased over time, according to Medscape reports. In previous years, students were less likely to cite future earnings as very important/important: 2020 (51%), 2018 (36%), and 2016 (34%). This increase in importance holds true across gender and school year.

Earning potential is more often very important/important to men (82%) than to women (71%).

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

A majority of students deal with debt in medical school. In 2022, one in five students reported debt over $300,000 and about half will graduate medical school with more than $200,000 in debt. Medscape findings align with the Association of American Medical Colleges report that the average graduate from the class of 2021 had $203,000 in debt.

The proportion of students anticipating graduating with $200,000 of debt is similar to the proportion in 2020 (50%) but more than in 2018 (45%) and 2016 (38%).

This increase in students with debt holds true across gender.

Not to be discounted, 16% of all students reported not having any debt.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

More than 6 in 10 students feel prepared/very prepared for their USMLE tests.

Men (69%) are more likely to feel prepared/very prepared than are women (60%).

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Half of students strongly favored/favored the change to pass/fail for the USMLE Step 1 test, which took place in January.

Women (55%) more often strongly favored/favored the change than men (44%).

Students in their first (63%) or second year (61%) more often strongly favored/favored the change than did their third- (48%) or fourth-year (42%) peers. That makes sense considering that the test is taken at the end of the second year of med school.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

The pandemic affected the USMLE testing experience for over half of medical students surveyed. Impact rose with years of schooling, from 8% for first-year students to 78% for fourth-year students.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

LeComer said he was appreciative of his school and its students' responses to COVID.

"Our school had to adjust scheduling and re-imagine the clinical rotations so students would still learn in the virtual environment. Of course, there are countless components of medicine that are exceptionally different to learn virtually, including physical exam skills, so the experience does not translate one-to-one," he said.

First-year students have a more positive perception about how their school handled COVID — with 63% citing that they were satisfied or very satisfied — than the other students surveyed. The genders share a similar view of their school's COVID response.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

COVID has strongly reinforced/reinforced the determination to become a doctor for about 40% of students, down from 2020 (53%).

Women (42%) are more likely to say the pandemic has strongly reinforced/reinforced their determination than are men (36%).

First-year students (51%) are more likely to say the pandemic has strongly reinforced/reinforced their determination than are their third- (37%) and fourth-year (36%) peers.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

About one third said that COVID has had an influence on their choice of specialty.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

On such a demanding educational course, doubts are known to creep in. About two thirds of students express doubt or concern at least sometimes about their ability to be a competent practicing physician.

Women (67%) are more likely than men (59%) to express doubt or concern.

Third-year students seem to have more doubts than both second- and fourth-year students, with 23% reporting that they frequently or constantly have misgivings about their career choice.

LeComer of Harvard admitted to having these misgivings. "Every day, I learn words I have never heard and entirely new categories of diseases and medications that have never crossed my mind, leaving me questioning whether I will ever actually learn all that I need to in order to be a good doctor.

"I may frequently feel dumb during my training, but I think that this feeling is part of what drives me to keep trying."

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Most students have felt burned out at least sometimes during medical school.

Third-year students report feeling more burned out than first- and fourth-year students, with more than half indicating that they frequently or constantly feel burned out. First-year students report being less burned out, with 23% saying they were rarely or never burned out.

For LeComer, "feelings of burnout did not come until I was in the middle of my clinical year. A combination of increased workload, losing track of friends, building debt, waking up very early, and seeing that residency gets even more difficult has weighed on me throughout the year."

Women (87%) are more likely to have felt burned out at least sometimes than men (75%).

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Almost half of students reported having met with a licensed therapist or school counselor.

Women are more likely than men to seek out these services, and third- and fourth-year students are more likely to have met with a therapist than are first- and second-year students. While one third of fourth-year students met with a licensed therapist, an equal number also said they don't need any help with mental health.

LeComer sought out therapy while in med school, "but accessibility is a major issue. I was matched with a therapist through my school, but we are only allowed a limited number of meetings before we need to go elsewhere, which was disappointing to me because I very much liked my therapist. … I am a huge proponent of seeking mental health help even if you feel you do not need it, but that is much easier said than done."

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Nearly half of students have considered leaving medical school at some point.

Women (53%) are more likely than men (45%) to have considered leaving.

LeComer said, "I have spent many mornings contemplating my choice to enter medicine, knowing that I am giving up my 20s to this process that takes so much from me. … I am still confident in my choice to enter the field of medicine, but I have had to work harder to maintain my joy and enthusiasm than I ever have in my life."

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

The goal of med school is to prepare students for residency, and more than half of medical students feel somewhat/very prepared.

Preparedness increased with years of training, with just 35% of first-year students feeling very/somewhat prepared and 75% of fourth-year students feeling very/somewhat prepared.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

A majority of students, over two thirds, are very or somewhat satisfied with their relationships with instructors.

Second-year students are the most dissatisfied with their instructors, with 23% being somewhat or very dissatisfied. The genders are equally satisfied with their teacher-student relations.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Women more often experienced unwanted advances from patients, students, and faculty.

In 2022, men report a decline in unwanted advances from patients compared with 2020 and 2018 (12% vs 19% vs 24%), while women's experiences have returned to 2018 levels (30% vs 26% vs 31%).

Women more often witnessed unwanted advances from students (21%) than did men (15%).

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Biases against gender and race/ethnicity are among those most often personally experienced and/or witnessed.

Women reported both experiencing and witnessing more biases than men. Other common biases students reported experiencing, but which are not shown here, include age, politics, religion, socioeconomic, and weight. Students also cited commonly witnessed biases of politics, weight, and socioeconomic status.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Almost two thirds of students say faculty and/or patients are the perpetrators of race/ethnicity bias.

According to our survey respondents, patients perpetrated gender bias at double the rate of students, while faculty perpetrated disability-related bias at double the rate of students.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

Overall stress is the top ranked medical school concern, more often cited by women and third- and fourth-year students. Men expressed more concern about their ability to master clinical information (21% vs 15%) and career/specialty choice (8% vs 5%).

Those beginning and ending med school, first- and fourth-year students, voiced the most concern about their ability to master clinical information.

Other commonly cited concerns included matching into a desired residency specialty and racial inequity.

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

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Medscape Medical Student Lifestyle Report 2022

Roni Robbins | September 9, 2022 | Contributor Information

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