UCL News


Predicting doctors' happiness

13 December 2005

A new study by Professor Chris McManus (UCL Psychology) has suggested that selectors cannot accurately predict from university application forms which doctors will eventually be dissatisfied, whereas psychometric testing may be able to predict.

The results, published in the open access journal BMC Medical Education, show that medical school staff charged with the selection process cannot predict whether an applicant will be happy as a doctor, or dissatisfied with their career, based solely on the information given in the current application forms.

Professor McManus said: "Many doctors are unhappy with their career, with a fifth of UK junior doctors considering leaving medicine. This is obviously a big problem, as it affects the doctors and has a knock-on effect for the patients. If there was some screening process at the application stage, we could prevent a lot of young people making the wrong career choice, and vice versa, choosing the best people naturally suited for medicine."

With colleagues from the University of Nottingham and UCL undergraduate students Sheeraz Iqbal (UCL Psychology) and Amuthan Chandrarajan, (Royal Free and University College Medical School) Professor McManus looked at the applications, personal statements and referee's reports of 80 doctors who applied for medical school in 1990. Based on the results of a survey done on the same doctors by Professor McManus in 2002, the application of a satisfied doctor was paired with an unsatisfied doctor.

The pairs of applications were examined by 96 assessors - medical school selectors, doctors, medical students and psychology students - whose task was to judge which doctor was the satisfied one.

The results showed that the assessors could not judge, from the information on the form, which doctors would subsequently go on to be unhappy with their career in medicine. Although the assessors were consistent in judging that the applicants with the higher educational qualifications would be the most satisfied, academic qualifications are not in fact an accurate predictor of job satisfaction.