Open Access Research article

Early community-based family practice elective positively influences medical students’ career considerations – a Pre-post-comparison

Tobias Deutsch*, Petra Hönigschmid, Thomas Frese and Hagen Sandholzer

Author affiliations

Department of Primary Care, Leipzig Medical School, Philipp-Rosenthal-Str. 55, Leipzig 04103, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Family Practice 2013, 14:24  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-14-24

Published: 21 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Demographic change and recruitment problems in family practice are increasingly threatening an adequate primary care workforce in many countries. Thus, it is important to attract young physicians to the field. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of an early community-based 28-h family practice elective with one-to-one mentoring on medical students’ consideration of family practice as a career option, their interest in working office-based, and several perceptions with regard to specific aspects of a family physician’s work.

Methods

First- and second-year medical students completed questionnaires before and after a short community-based family practice elective, consisting of a preparatory course and a community-based practical experience with one-to-one mentoring by trained family physicians.

Results

We found a significantly higher rate of students favoring family practice as a career option after the elective (32.7% vs. 26.0%, p = 0.039). Furthermore, the ranking of family practice among other considered career options improved (p = 0.002). Considerations to work office-based in the future did not change significantly. Perceptions regarding a family physician’s job changed positively with regard to the possibility of long-term doctor-patient relationships and treatment of complex disease patterns. The majority of the students described identification with the respective family physician tutor as a professional role model and an increased interest in the specialty.

Conclusions

Our results indicate that a short community-based family practice elective early in medical education may positively influence medical students’ considerations of a career in family practice. Furthermore, perceptions regarding the specialty with significant impact on its attractiveness may be positively adjusted. Further research is needed to evaluate the influence of different components of a family practice curriculum on the de facto career decisions of young physicians after graduation.

Keywords:
Career choice; Family practice; Elective; Medical education