Background: Medical students’ specialty selection influences the composition of the physician workforce and the effectiveness of health systems. Therefore, the identification of factors that influence the choice of specialty is critical for an evidence-based health policy. This study aimed to investigate the effect of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the determinants of specialty choice among Iranian medical residents.
Methods: In early 2022, this qualitative study was conducted among Iranian medical residents in seven provinces, including Tehran, Isfahan, Fars, Khorasan Razavi, Kerman, Kermanshah, and Khuzestan. The participants were selected using a purposeful sampling method. Data were collected using 74 semi-structured in-depth face-to-face interviews. Finally, a thematic content analysis (conventional content analysis) method was applied for data synthesis.
Results: The participant’s mean age was 28.7±2.5 years, and more than 52% (N=39) were men. Following data synthesis, 10 sub-themes and four main themes were identified, including educational aspects affected by the pandemic, career-related hazards, personal and professional lifestyles affected by the disease, and experiences and beliefs regarding the pandemic.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on medical students’ educational, professional, and personal aspects of specialty choices. This study demonstrated how the disease affected the choice of specialty. Therefore, the findings could be used for developing national health policy and planning.