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Open Access Research article

Impact of clerkship in the attitudes toward psychiatry among Portuguese medical students

Miguel Xavier* and José C Almeida

Author Affiliations

Department of Mental Health, CEDOC, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:56  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-56

Published: 2 August 2010

Abstract

Background

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.