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Medical Interns Retake Tests to Enter Popular Fields

Posted December. 23, 2009 13:37,   


“I think it’s better to spend another year trying an internship again rather than studying a specialty I don’t want,” an intern said.

He said he will apply once again next year while working as a physician at a medical checkup center or a hospital for the elderly. “A general physician earns as much as five million won (4,240 dollars) per month, but you have to work temporarily. Anyway, it’s better than taking the (medical specialty placement) test a third time.”

Working as a doctor at a public health care center in lieu of his military service, the intern, 27, decided to repeat the test early. “I applied for plastic surgery last year but failed. Though I was about to finish my internship, I gave it up and decided to serve in the military instead,” he said.

Residency qualification tests generally include the scores of internships, written tests and interviews, and he decided to upgrade his scores in his internship after failing the test.

He said more than half of his male peers who failed also left their internships like him to complete their military duty. “Of course, I feel stressed over the thought that I have to do the internship all over again, but I will upgrade my scores this time to get into plastic surgery.”

Dermatology, ophthalmology and plastic surgery are considered relatively easy specialties in medicine with high pay. Among interns for 2010 residency, 134 applied for 85 slots in dermatology and 130 for 95 slots in plastic surgery. Just 145 applied for 305 slots in surgery.

With more interns striving to specialize in higher-paying fields, more interns are repeating residency qualification tests. They apparently believe trying again to get into popular fields is preferable to applying for less liked specialties.

Psychiatry is another popular medical field with the highest application rate of 184 percent, as 270 people applied for 146 slots. One intern said, “People used to get an implicit acceptance from chief doctors of certain majors or otherwise changed their major. Now, people apply for popular majors even if they are unqualified. Most of them try again if they fail.”

Medical students about to enter an internship or medical specialists say they understand this mentality. An aspiring thoracic surgeon often changes his or her field after learning of the medical costs and the terrible working environment.

Even after finishing residency, thoracic surgeons cannot continue practicing if they fail to become professors, a factor that encourages students to retake residency qualification tests.

Park Ji-yeon, secretary general at the Korea Intern Resident Association, said, “There were popular majors in the past, but as the preference for dermatology, ophthalmology and plastic surgery grows more intense, more interns are trying again to get into those fields.”

“Unpopular majors such as thoracic surgery have presented many carrots thanks to government assistance, but it is uncertain whether many will change their minds even if the majors attract more applicants.”