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Open Access Research article

Medical students' views about an undergraduate curriculum in psychiatry before and after clinical placements

Clare Oakley* and Femi Oyebode

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychiatry, University of Birmingham, Queen Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital, Mindelsohn Way, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2QZ, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2008, 8:26  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-8-26

Published: 25 April 2008

Abstract

Background

It has been suggested that medical students wish to focus their learning in psychiatry on general skills that are applicable to all doctors. This study seeks to establish what aspects of psychiatry students perceive to be relevant to their future careers and what psychiatric knowledge and skills they consider to be important. It is relevant to consider whether these expectations about learning needs vary prior to and post-placement in psychiatry. To what extent these opinions should influence curriculum development needs to be assessed.

Methods

A questionnaire was distributed to medical students before they commenced their psychiatry placement and after they had completed it. The questionnaire considered the relevance of psychiatry to their future careers, the relevance of particular knowledge and skills, the utility of knowledge of psychiatric specialties and the utility of different settings for learning psychiatry.

Results

The students felt skills relevant to all doctors, such as assessment of suicide risk, were more important than more specialist psychiatric skills, such as the management of schizophrenia. They felt that knowledge of how psychiatric illnesses present in general practice was important and it was a useful setting in which to learn psychiatry. They thought that conditions that are commonly seen in the general hospital are important and that liaison psychiatry was useful.

Conclusion

Two ways that medical students believe their teaching can be made more relevant to their future careers are highlighted in this study. Firstly, there is a need to focus on scenarios which students will commonly encounter in their initial years of employment. Secondly, psychiatry should be better integrated into the overall curriculum, with the opportunity for teaching in different settings. However, when developing curricula the need to listen to what students believe they should learn needs to be balanced against the necessity of teaching the fundamentals and principles of a speciality.