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The future of medical careers

How can we ensure that medical workforce supply matches population health need?

The medical workforce in Australia is undergoing substantial changes. Oversupply of domestic medical graduates, coupled with growth in international entrants, has led to increased competition for internships and prevocational training positions.1,2 In coming years, more applicants will vie for vocational training positions in their preferred fields and many doctors may be disappointed in their eventual career pathways.3 Such challenges should have been foreseen when the new medical schools were established; however, the health system has reacted slowly.

The relative freedom historically enjoyed by doctors in choosing their vocational pathways has resulted in imbalances across geographic regions and between specialties. There is strong competition for those regarded as desirable (eg, high-status and highly paid specialties such as surgery4), while others continue to experience relatively low interest. Recent modelling suggests that the generalist specialties, including general medicine and psychiatry, as well as general practice, will continue to experience shortages.5

Should we and can we manage medical careers in a more proactive fashion, so that…