A Career Exploration Program: An Effective Alternative to the Traditional Use of Faculty Advisors

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Problem Providing medical students with resources to make effective career choices is challenging for medical schools as career options outnumber the formal clinical rotations students can experience during their undergraduate education. Approach In 2009, the authors introduced the Career Exploration (CE) courses into the required curriculum at the Quillen College of Medicine. This three-course sequence includes large-group sessions addressing broad issues related to career choices, small-group specialty interest groups, individual student self-assessments, assignments through which students receive individualized feedback, and individual student advising sessions. The overall objective of the course sequence is to involve all students in career planning from the beginning of medical school so as to help them make more informed career decisions. Outcomes The authors used improvement in student satisfaction with career planning activities as a surrogate measure for the outcome of helping students make more informed career choices. Students evaluated the CE courses positively, and overall satisfaction scores averaged 4 (1 = poor to 5 = excellent). Scores on Association of American Medical Colleges Graduation Questionnaire items related to career planning showed improved student satisfaction from 2010 to 2015. Next Steps Succession planning for the first- and second-year career advisor is vital - as is faculty development for all clinical advisors to ensure that they have current information regarding both the curriculum and Match process, especially as residency selection becomes increasingly competitive. Enhancing the role of fourth-year students who serve as CE III mentors has the potential to prepare these students to be better teachers as residents.