BACKGROUND. One response to the decline in interest among medical students in residency training in primary care has been the offering, by residency programs and hospitals, of financial recruitment incentives to medical students during their residency interviews. Few data on the breadth and effectiveness of this practice have been available. METHOD. To gain insight into how hospitals and/or programs offered incentives, the authors compared 1990 and 1992 survey data on this topic from the members of the Association of American Medical Colleges' Council of Teaching Hospitals (AAMC/COTH) with 1992 data from the members of the Association for Hospital Medical Education (AHME), employing responses to identical questionnaire items. Complementary data on students' experiences with recruitment incentives in 1991 and 1992 were also analyzed. These data have been collected since 1991 in the Medical School Graduation Questionnaire (GQ) of the AAMC's Section for Educational Research, but little or no information had been available on medical students' perceptions of the effectiveness of these incentives. Therefore, one of the authors surveyed members of the classes of 1992 at four Midwestern medical schools about their residency interviewing experiences, including their reactions to financial incentives they encountered. RESULTS. The outcomes from these surveys indicate that, as expected, family practice, internal medicine, and pediatrics were the specialties most likely to offer financial incentives; that a wide variety of recruitment incentives was available to students; that the proportion of programs and hospitals offering such incentives was increasing (e.g., from 37% in the 1990 COTH survey to 54% in the 1992 survey); and that a large majority (79%) of students who encountered these incentives viewed them as at least somewhat effective in persuading them to consider matching with the programs that offered them. CONCLUSION. The prevalence and persuasiveness of financial incentives raise a number of serious questions, including whether competition for residents will divert funds from improving educational quality to recruitment.
(C) 1994 Association of American Medical Colleges