Factors Influencing Primary Care Career Choice: A Multi-Institutional Cross-sectional Survey of Internal Medicine Primary Care Residency Graduates

Paul O’Rourke, Sean Tackett, Karen Chacko, Stephen J. Knaus, Marc Shalaby, Shelly Ann Fluker, Mina Ma, Maryann Overland, Scott Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Although primary care is associated with population health benefits, the supply of primary care physicians continues to decline. Internal medicine (IM) primary care residency programs have produced graduates that pursue primary care; however, it is uncertain what characteristics and training factors most affect primary care career choice. Objective: To assess factors that influenced IM primary care residents to pursue a career in primary care versus a non-primary care career. Design: Multi-institutional cross-sectional study. Participants: IM primary care residency graduates from seven residency programs from 2014 to 2019. Main Measures: Descriptive analyses of respondent characteristics, residency training experiences, and graduate outcomes were performed. Bivariate logistic regression analyses were used to assess associations between primary care career choice with both graduate characteristics and training experiences. Key Results: There were 256/314 (82%) residents completing the survey. Sixty-six percent of respondents (n = 169) practiced primary care or primary care with a specialized focus such as geriatrics, HIV primary care, or women’s health. Respondents who pursued a primary care career were more likely to report the following as positive influences on their career choice: resident continuity clinic experience, nature of the PCP-patient relationship, ability to care for a broad spectrum of patient pathology, breadth of knowledge and skills, relationship with primary care mentors during residency training, relationship with fellow primary care residents during training, and lifestyle/work hours (all p < 0.05). Respondents who did not pursue a primary care career were more likely to agree that the following factors detracted them from a primary care career: excessive administrative burden, demanding clinical work, and concern about burnout in a primary care career (all p < 0.05). Conclusions: Efforts to optimize the outpatient continuity clinic experience for residents, cultivate a supportive learning community of primary care mentors and residents, and decrease administrative burden in primary care may promote primary care career choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • career choice
  • graduate medical education
  • primary care
  • residency
  • workforce supply

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

Cite this