Personality Profiles of Rural Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship Students Who Choose Family Medicine

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Physician workforce projections fuel interest in addressing the shortage of family physicians. Copious research has investigated personality as a variable influencing specialty intention. Medical school rural longitudinal integrated clerkships (LICs) nurture interest in family medicine. This study examined whether rural LIC students who intended to and eventually matched into family medicine portrayed a personality trait profile different from rural LIC students who intended or matched to all other specialities. The profiles of four successive cohorts are described in relation to their intended and eventual specialty match.

METHODS: A cross-sectional design sampled 145 third-year students from 2008–2011. A survey measured demographics, temperament and character personality traits, and Other-Oriented Empathy. Multivariate analysis compared family medicine versus all other specialty matches and original specialty intention with eventual match.

RESULTS: Match groups did not differ in gender, age, or marital status. Rural LIC students who matched in family medicine had lower levels of Harm Avoidance, higher Reward Dependence, and nonsignificant higher levels of every other personality trait in comparison to other matches. Rural LIC students who intended and matched to family medicine showed the highest levels of Reward Dependence (warm sociability) and Other-Oriented Empathy compared to any other specialty.

CONCLUSIONS: Lower levels of Harm Avoidance are conducive to less anxiety, more composure and confidence in making decisions, and being relaxed in accepting a degree of risk and uncertainty. Such calm optimism along with higher Reward Dependence showing social warmth and empathy are desirable traits for family physicians regularly confronted with a wide range of presentations from the obvious to complex. Further investigation of what influences sustainability of the intention to enter family medicine may be useful to educators for counseling.