In Canada, graduating medical students consider many factors, including geographic, social, and academic, when ranking residency programs through the Canadian Residency Matching Service (CaRMS). The relative significance of these factors is poorly studied in Canada. It is also unknown how students differentiate between their top program choices. This survey study addresses the influence of various factors on applicant decision making.
Graduating medical students from all six Ontario medical schools were invited to participate in an online survey available for three weeks prior to the CaRMS match day in 2010. Max-Diff discrete choice scaling, multiple choice, and drop-list style questions were employed. The Max-Diff data was analyzed using a scaled simple count method. Data for how students distinguish between top programs was analyzed as percentages. Comparisons were made between male and female applicants as well as between family medicine and specialist applicants; statistical significance was determined by the Mann-Whitney test.
In total, 339 of 819 (41.4%) eligible students responded. The variety of clinical experiences and resident morale were weighed heavily in choosing a residency program; whereas financial incentives and parental leave attitudes had low influence. Major reasons that applicants selected their first choice program over their second choice included the distance to relatives and desirability of the city. Both genders had similar priorities when selecting programs. Family medicine applicants rated the variety of clinical experiences more importantly; whereas specialty applicants emphasized academic factors more.
Graduating medical students consider program characteristics such as the variety of clinical experiences and resident morale heavily in terms of overall priority. However, differentiation between their top two choice programs is often dependent on social/geographic factors. The results of this survey will contribute to a better understanding of the CaRMS decision making process for both junior medical students and residency program directors.