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Medical and nursing students planning careers outside patient care

Majority of medical and nursing students planning careers outside patient care as fears of burnout and staff shortages leave them worried about the future

Elsevier Health, a global leader in evidence-based clinical practice content, research publishing and information analytics, releases its Clinician of the Future 2023: Education Edition, providing unparalleled insights into the experiences of medical and nursing students and the consequences for the NHS and educators in the UK.

The report reveals how the challenges of being a frontline health professional today are impacting the longer-term career decisions of students, highlighting increasingly challenging times ahead for an already overburdened healthcare system. Although almost 9 out of 10 medical and nursing students in the UK feel devoted to improving patients’ lives, findings reveal that 58% already see their current studies as a steppingstone towards a broader career in healthcare that will not involve directly caring for patients.

The Clinician of the Future 2023: Education Edition presents a worrying snapshot of the pressures that medical and nursing students feel today alongside the impending alarm they have for life in clinical practice:

  • 20% of medical and nursing students in the UK are considering quitting their undergraduate studies
  • 57% of medical and nursing students in the UK report they are worried about their mental well-being
  • 64% of medical and nursing students in the UK believe they will suffer from clinician burnout
  • 75% of medical and nursing students in the UK are concerned about healthcare staff shortages and the impact this would have on them in their future role

Anjola Awe, a third-year medical student at King’s College London, said: “I have always known that I wanted to be a doctor; I’ve dedicated my life to getting to this stage. Honestly, the findings and themes in the report are not at all surprising to me or my peers; we know only too well the reality of what being a frontline healthcare professional means today. We need to be vocal about the pressure we are under, the state of our mental health, and the volume of our academic workload.”

As of June this year, there were more than 125,000 vacancies in secondary care in England, and over 10% of all nursing posts remain unfilled. Despite the NHS treating more patients than before the pandemic, the waiting list for NHS treatment currently stands at a record 7.75 million.2 Against this backdrop, it is unsurprising that medical and nursing students in the UK are concerned about the challenges they will face in the future.

Dr Philip Xiu, a general practitioner and educational lead who supports medical students and junior doctors in Leeds, West Yorkshire, said: “As an educator, I see daily how vital it is we address students’ well-being concerns. Doubling enrolment won’t resolve looming workforce shortages if issues impeding student wellness go unresolved. We must equip them with critical thinking to aid sound clinical decisions, and partnership skills to involve patients meaningfully in care. By listening and responding to students’ needs, we can graduate resilient, empowered clinicians ready to elevate healthcare.”

The Clinician of the Future 2023: Education Edition also identifies key insights into both the excitement and reservation towards technology and generative AI student curriculum. In the UK, 53% of medical and nursing students say they are excited at the potential of AI; however, 54% report they are worried about its use to support education. Furthermore, 74% admit to feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information they are expected to retain, with 44% now using generative AI, such as ChatGPT and Bard.

Jan Herzhoff, President of Elsevier Health, said: “It’s clear that healthcare across the globe is facing unprecedented pressures, and that the next generation of medical and nursing students are anxious about their future. Whether through the use of technology or engaging learning resources, we must support students with new and innovative approaches to enable them to achieve their potential. However, the issues raised in this report can’t be tackled in isolation; it is essential that the whole healthcare community comes together to ensure a sustainable pipeline of healthcare professionals.”

The Clinician of the Future 2023: Education Edition is the third edition published as part of Elsevier Health’s Clinician of the Future program, serving as the global health ecosystem’s leading pulse on the changes and challenges facing the doctors and nurses of today and tomorrow.

For the full Clinician of the Future 2023

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