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Employers: PhD graduates from Health make a good contribution in the clinic

A new study from CESU concludes that the hospitals in the Central Denmark Region are satisfied with the medical doctors who also have a PhD degree from Health.

The employers at AUH and the Central Denmark Region's regional hospitals are pleased with the skills that medical doctors with a PhD degree contribute in the clinic. This is despite the fact that some employers think too many of the PhD graduates stop their research activity once they have been employed for a couple of years. Additionally, some employers think that the PhD programme is given too much importance in itself.

These represent the rough outline of the conclusions from a new survey of what employers in the Central Denmark Region actually think that a medical doctor with a PhD degree contributes when compared to a medical doctor without a PhD degree.

The survey was carried out by the Centre for Health Sciences Education (CESU) at Aarhus University and has just been published in the Danish Medical Journal. It is part of a larger research project which studies the influence of a PhD programme on the work carried out by medical doctors and nurses in the clinic in the Central Denmark Region.

While the present article sheds light on the employer perspective, CESU also has more articles underway.
In addition, a special publication analysis of the research activity of medical doctors employed in the Central Denmark Region after completing a PhD degree programme was prepared by the Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy for the Graduate School, Faculty of Health in the autumn of 2016.

Figures can qualify the debate about PhDs

"It is very important that we have specific facts to substantiate the many opinions in the public debate, which are based on what people believe. In this way, we will be more aware of what we are talking about when, for example, deciding the future of health science PhDs, and the politicians will have some facts to base their decisions on," says Vice-dean for Talent Development at Health, Lise Wogensen Bach.

She has been a co-author of the new study, which provides a somewhat different picture of how research activity is experienced compared to the publication analysis from autumn 2016.

"Our publication analysis showed that medical doctors with a PhD working in the Central Denmark Region have not necessarily stopped doing research, even though they concentrate on the clinical work for a period after being employed. On the contrary, the analysis shows that they do write a number of articles when you look at a longer period than the first couple of years after being employed," she says.

Are the PhD graduates worth the money?

The background for the new survey from CESU is that the number of health science PhDs has increased significantly in the years since the globalisation agreement in 2006 directed political focus towards – and increased the number of – PhDs in Denmark. Today, approx. thirty per cent of Danish PhDs are educated within the health sciences. 

But there has recently been a lively debate about whether the expensively educated PhDs are really worth the money.

"In our new, local study, what I notice in particular is that the employers are satisfied with the skills that medical doctors with a PhD from Health contribute with, when they are employed in the clinic, for example at AUH or the regional hospitals. The respondents highlight factors such as the PhD graduate’s ability to find relevant information, acquire new knowledge, handle complex issues and to work independently, all of which are closely related to the competences that we emphasise in our PhD programme," says Lise Wogensen Bach.

The study is based partly on quantitative data and partly on six individual and four group interviews with employers, which were carried out by the project's primary author, Anthropologist, PhD Pernille Andreassen from CESU. A total of 42 doctors took part in the qualitative part of the survey.

Overall, respondents at AUH indicated that they had a sufficient number of PhDs employed, while among respondents at the regional hospitals there was a desire for more PhDs among the employees to make research a bigger part of the clinical practice.


Vice-dean for Talent Development Lise Wogensen Bach
Aarhus University, Health
Mobile: (+45) 2548 8522

Anthropologist, PhD Pernille Andreasen
Aarhus University, Centre for Health Sciences Education (CESU)
Tel. (+45) 8620 5231