To identify the preferred specialties, salary perception and other factors that influence the choice of a career in primary care among last-year medical students or social service students in Central America.
A cross-sectional, multicenter study using a survey that investigated demographic information, preferred specialty, salary perception, and other factors that influence the choice of a specialty.
A total of 1 722 students from 31 universities participated and identified as future specialties: surgery (11.7%), gynecology/obstetrics (10.3%), pediatrics (9.9%) and internal medicine (6.6%). General medicine was preferred by 3.8% and family medicine by 1.1%. On grouping them, the greatest interest was observed for medical specialties (49.7%), followed by surgical specialties (31.7%). Primary care registered an interest of 17.1%. Surgical specialties were perceived as having the highest income (USD 36 000); primary care was perceived as having the lowest income (USD 24 000). Income (23.6%), future work (19.7%) and “making a difference in people” (8.9%) were the main factors involved in the choice. “Working with people with low access” was significantly associated with preference for primary care. Preference for other specialties was influenced by “perceived prestige” and “enjoying life” (P < 0.05). Most participants who chose primary care were studying at a public university (P < 0.05), highlighting the role of public institutions of higher education.
There is a combination of facilitating factors and barriers that affect the low interest in primary care careers. There is a need for strategies from academia and the government sector, as well as the definition of public policies, that support the choice of primary care.