Impact of the learning environment on career intentions of paediatric interns
South African Medical Journal
Background. High childhood disease burdens in South Africa (SA) prioritise the need for careers in paediatrics. Experiences of junior doctors during internship may influence career trajectories in a direction that is discordant with national health priorities. Objective. To explore the influence of the learning environment and demography on career intentions of SA paediatric interns. Methods. This cross-sectional study involved sampling intern groups at the start and completion of internship in
... on of internship in paediatrics to determine their career intentions. A validated version of the Postgraduate Hospital Educational Environmental Measure was used to measure perceptions of the learning environment (LE) in the post-paediatric internship cohort. Measures of the LE in combination with demographic factors were compared with career intentions. Associations were determined by t-tests or analysis of variance and χ 2 tests. Results. A total sample size of 422 was obtained from two separate cohorts, which were demographically similar except for age. Most interns (88.4%) intended to remain in SA, with 72.6% indicating an intention to practise in the public healthcare sector. There was a high intention to specialise (85.9%), and 60.2% were keen on a career that involved children. Previous educational exposure and demographic factors other than gender did not significantly influence career intentions. Perceptions of the LE significantly influenced decisions to stay in SA's public sector and to care for children. The decision to specialise, however, was not influenced by demographic variables or perceptions of the LE. Conclusions. Paediatric interns from diverse sociocultural and educational backgrounds had similar career intentions. Most interns were keen to work with children in SA's public sector. However, learning experiences during internship significantly influence these intentions and have the potential to drive young doctors away from SA, its public health service and paediatric care. Ensuring that training and support of interns are optimised is essential if SA is to align its healthcare needs with the aspirations of its future healthcare workers.