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Attitudes of medical students in Ireland towards psychiatry: comparison of students from 1994 and 2010

  • K. O'Connor (a1) (a2), K. O'Loughlin (a1) (a3), C. Somers (a1) (a3), L. Wilson (a1) (a4), D. Pillay (a1) (a4), D. Brennan (a2), M. Clarke (a2), A. Guerandel (a1) (a3), P. Casey (a1) (a4), K. Malone (a1) (a3) and A. Lane (a2)...
Abstract
Aims and method

We assess and compare: (a) the attitudes of final-year medical students in 2010 to their 1994 counterparts; (b) the attitudes of third-year medical students with those of their final-year colleagues; (c) the impact of two different teaching modules on students' attitudes. All students completing the year 3 psychiatry preclinical module and the final-year clinical clerkship were asked to anonymously complete three well-validated attitudinal questionnaires on the first and final day of their module in psychiatry.

Results

These data indicate that Irish medical students have a positive attitude to psychiatry even prior to the start of their clinical training in psychiatry. This attitude is significantly more positive now than it was in 1994. A positive attitudinal change was brought about only by the final-year psychiatric clerkship. Students who have completed a degree prior to medicine are less likely to express an interest in a career in psychiatry.

Clinical implications

If we are to address the recruitment difficulties in psychiatry we need to look at innovative and specific ways of translating these positive attitudes into careers in psychiatry.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Karen O'Connor (karenoconnor2@hotmail.com)
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Declaration of interest

None.

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References
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Attitudes of medical students in Ireland towards psychiatry: comparison of students from 1994 and 2010

  • K. O'Connor (a1) (a2), K. O'Loughlin (a1) (a3), C. Somers (a1) (a3), L. Wilson (a1) (a4), D. Pillay (a1) (a4), D. Brennan (a2), M. Clarke (a2), A. Guerandel (a1) (a3), P. Casey (a1) (a4), K. Malone (a1) (a3) and A. Lane (a2)...
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eLetters

Maintain the momentum: bridging the undergraduate - graduate divide

Adam Moreton, Medical Advisor (OOPE)
15 October 2012

O'Connor et al showed that a more positive attitude towards psychiatry exists following final-year psychiatry clerkships at UniversityCollege Dublin. This signifies the importance of exposure to the realties of working as a psychiatrist in influencing students' perception of the specialty. Whether this positive attitudinal change resulted from seeing the realities of day-to-day psychiatric practice, exposure to relatable clinical role models or something else is unclear. However, it is unfortunate that such attitudes towards a career in psychiatry are not maintained when making post-internship specialty choices. This may suggestthat the undergraduate pro-psychiatry outlook is not sufficiently robust or long lived as to endure the first year(s) as a doctor.

Currently there is a mismatch between the proportion of total foundation year (FY1/2) posts and core/speciality training year 1 (CT/ST1)posts in psychiatry in England: 1.1% in FY1 and 5.4% in FY2 [1] vs. 6.2% CT1 posts [2,3]. Compared to the similarly sized specialty of paediatricswhere the ratio of foundation to speciality training posts (2.6% in FY1 and 6.0% in FY2 [4] vs. 4.9% ST1 posts [2,3]) favors the maintenance of any undergraduate pro-paediatrics momentum; psychiatry has some ground to make up.

Assuming that exposure to the job is key and that endurance of the pro-specialty attitude developed in medical school is the issue then more work needs to be done on increasing the number of psychiatry internships in Ireland and foundation posts in the UK to maintain this interest. Such work is already taking place in the UK through ambitious plans to increasethe number of FY1/2 psychiatry posts to 7.5%.

If interaction with "those doing the job" is important then there mayalso be benefits from increasing the face-time that recent graduates get with psychiatrists, even in a non-clinical environment. Especially as thisa key time for influencing a new doctor's career choice [5].

Although medical student internships produce positive attitudes towards psychiatry and stimulate enthusiasm for entering into the specialty, this momentum needs to be maintained post-graduation and not lost during the Irish internship or UK foundation programme.

REFERENCES

1 Collins J. Foundation for Excellence: An evaluation of the Foundation Programme. October 2010. www.mee.nhs.uk/pdf/401339_MEE_FoundationExcellence_acc.pdf (Accessed 7 October 2012).

2 Medical Specialty Training (England). Competition Information from 2011: Core Psychiatry Training. MMC. http://www.mmc.nhs.uk/specialty_training/specialty_training_2012/recruitment_process/stage_1_-_getting_started/stage_2_-_choosing_your_specia/competition_information.aspx (Accessed 5 October 2012).

3 Carr A, Sullivan E, Buggle S, Hamilton P. Specialty training at ST1and CT1 in England. BMJ Careers 2011. http://careers.bmj.com/careers/advice/view-article.html?id=20005662 (Accessed 5 October 2012).

4 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Foundation Doctors. RCPCH 2012. http://www.rcpch.ac.uk/training-examinations-professional-development/careers/foundation-doctors/foundation-doctors (Accessed 6 October 2012).

5 Goldacre MJ, Lambert TW. Stability and change in career choices of junior doctors: postal questionnaire surveys of the United Kingdom qualifiers of 1993. Med Educ 2000; 34: 700-7.

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Conflict of interest: AM was the BMA Junior Doctors Committee representative to the UK Foundation Programme Board and Foundation School Directors committee during 2011-12.

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