Impact of clerkship in the attitudes toward psychiatry among Portuguese medical students
Department of Mental Health, CEDOC, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal
BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:56 doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-56Published: 2 August 2010
Given the shortage of human resources and the launching of a new Mental Health Plan, recruitment of psychiatrists is currently a major concern in Portugal, as well as in several other countries. Medical students' attitude toward psychiatry has been pointed as a predictor of recruitment. This study aims to evaluate the medical students' perception of psychiatry before and after a clerkship, and the impact on their intention to pursue psychiatry as a future specialty option.
Two self-report questionnaires were administered to all 6th year students in a medical school in Lisbon, before and after a 4-weeks full-time psychiatric clerkship, in order to evaluate attitudes toward psychiatry and intention to follow psychiatry in the future. Statistical analysis included Wilcoxon and Chi-square tests.
153 students (60.8% female) filled in both questionnaires (no dropouts). After the clerkship, there was a significant improvement regarding the overall merits of psychiatry, efficacy, role definition and functioning of psychiatrists, use of legal powers to hospitalize patients and specific medical school factors. There was also a significant increase of students decided or considering the possibility to take a residency in psychiatry.
However, perceptions of low prestige and negative pressure from family and peers regarding a future choice of psychiatry remained unchanged in about one-third of the students.
The results indicate clearly that the clerkship had a favorable overall impact on the student attitude towards psychiatry, as well as in the number of students considering a future career in psychiatry. Attitudes toward psychiatry seems a promising outcome indicator of the clerkship's quality, but further research is needed in order to assess its reliability as a sound predictor of recruitment.