Fourth-year medical students face the difficult task of choosing a residency consistent with their career goals. Our study investigates the input of the spouse on the residency selection. From July 1, 1988, to July 1, 1990, questionnaires were sent to all 69 spouses of fourth-year medical students at the University of Arizona Medical Center. Fifty-six were returned for a response rate of 81%. Of the 16 women and 40 men who responded (mean age: 27 years), 55 (98%) spouses stated that there had been family discussions on the choice of a residency program, and 41 (73%) respondents thought that they had significant input. When asked to rank the items that most influenced their support for a particular training program, career goals of the medical student (68%) and lifestyle (21%) were most important, whereas prestige, earning capacity, and program length were ranked lowest. Specific concerns expressed by spouses on the selection of a surgical residency included time commitment as the most commonly cited (79%), followed by fatigue (48%). A statistically significant correlation existed between those spouses actively discouraging the choice of general surgery and those objecting to the time commitment during residency (p < 0.05). We conclude that spouses have significant preferences regarding the choice of a training program following medical school. Career goals and lifestyle appear to be the most important factors; however, despite concern about the time commitment, the majority of spouses are supportive of the selection of a surgical residency.
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