Understanding UK medical students’ perspectives on a career in cardiothoracic surgery

Axiaq, Ariana, Visser, Renier Adriaan Binneman, Shirke, Manasi, Khashkhusha, Arwa, Zaidi, Sara, Pillay, Raneesha, Goulden, Christopher and Harky, Amer (2021) Understanding UK medical students’ perspectives on a career in cardiothoracic surgery. JTCVS Open, 8 . pp. 509-517.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xjon.2021.08.035


Objectives: The United Kingdom post-graduate training program in Cardiothoracic surgery (CTS) is challenging and competitive, with trainees choosing the field for different reasons. This study aims to identify factors that influence medical students in pursuing a career within CTS.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out in which a questionnaire was anonymously filled out by medical students across 17 medical schools in the UK. The online survey platform, JISC, was used for survey distribution and analysis. A mixed-method approach was employed to gather quantitative and qualitative data. Data collection consisted of a series of closed
questions and one open-ended question. The questions focussed on the attitudes, knowledge of, and exposure to CTS.

Results: The survey yielded 265 responses. Interest in CTS was seen in 45.3% of participants, with the leading factor for pursuing this career being lifestyle factors (50%), closely followed by the career opportunities (42.9%) and the aid of mentors (31%). Some discouraging factors were: Difficulty of learning material (37.7%), length of the training programme (27.4%), competition in the field (26%), stress (24.3%) and lifestyle factors (22.1%).

Conclusions: Whilst UK medical schools try to provide an introduction to specialities like CTS, there remains a proportion of medical students that do not have access to opportunities needed to make a balanced career decision. Additionally, individual
circumstances and aspirations tend to change from students’ first year of study to their final year, which can alter their perceptions about the field.

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