Challenges to the Israeli healthcare system: Attracting medical students to primary care and to the periphery

Charles Weissman*, Rachel Yaffa Zisk-Rony, Alexander Avidan, Uriel Elchalal, Howard Tandeter

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Scopus citations


    Background: The greatest challenges facing healthcare systems include ensuring a sufficient supply of primary care physicians and physicians willing to work in rural or peripheral areas. Especially challenging is enticing young physicians to practice primary care in rural/peripheral areas. Identifying medical students interested in primary care and in residencies in Israel's periphery should aid the healthcare leadership. It may be particularly important to do so during the clinical years, as this is the stage at which many future physicians begin to crystallize their specialty and location preferences. Methods: Questionnaires, distributed to 6 consecutive 5th-year classes of the Hebrew University - Hadassah School of Medicine, from 2010 to 2016, elicited information on criteria for choosing a career specialty, criteria for choosing a residency program and whether one-time monetary grants authorized in the 2011 physicians' union contract would attract students to residencies in the periphery. Results: Completed questionnaires were returned by 511 of 740 (69%) students. Ninety-eight (19%) were interested in a primary care residency, 184 (36%) were unsure and 229 (45%) were not interested. Students interested in primary care were significantly less interested in specialties that perform procedures/surgeries and in joining a medical school faculty, while being more inclined towards specialties dealing with social problems, controllable lifestyles and working limited hours. The percentage of students interested in primary care was stable during the study period. Forty-eight of the students indicated interest in residencies in the country's periphery, and 42% of them were also interested in primary care residencies. Overall, only 3.7% of students were interested in both a primary care residency and a residency in the periphery. Thirty percent of the students indicated that the monetary incentives tempted them to consider a residency in the periphery. Fifty-three percent of these students reported that they did not yet know the geographic area where they wished to do their residency, as compared to only 22% among those not interested in incentives. Conclusions: This study provides the healthcare leadership with information on the characteristics of the students at a centrally-located medical school who tend to be more interested in primary care and in working in the periphery. Specifically, the study found that students interested in primary care desire a positive life/work balance, something that Israeli non-hospital primary care practice provides. Students considering residencies in the periphery were similarly inclined. Moreover, about a third of students had positive thoughts about monetary incentives for residencies in peripheral hospitals. These students should be identified early during their clinical experience so that attempts to recruit them to the periphery can commence before their specialty and location preferences have fully crystallized. Parallel studies should be performed at additional Israeli medical schools.

    Original languageAmerican English
    Article number28
    JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 29 May 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2018 The Author(s).


    • Career choice
    • Medical education
    • Medical specialty selection
    • Medical students
    • Residency


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