Professional representations orient students toward their future profession and influence their view of what things are important to learn.
To analyze medical students' professional representations and their background.
One hundred nine 1st-day medical students wrote an essay titled "My work and future as a physician in the 21st century" and filled in a questionnaire about their background. The essays were content analyzed to identify the dimensions of their professional representations.
Four dimensions of representations emerged: impersonal-personal, foreclosed-reflective, traditional-transformative, and idealistic-realistic. The professional representations were associated with the students' gender, previous experiences of working and studying, their sources of information about the medical profession, and the time of career choice.
Our study revealed different subgroups of medical students in view of their professional orientation. The relevance of this finding for the recruitment and educational practices of medical schools is discussed.