The Educational Impact of Exposure to Clinical Psychiatry Early in an Undergraduate Medical Curriculum
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The medical school at Swansea University provides compulsory early exposure to clinical education through short learning opportunities in the clinical setting (LOCS). These are 3–4-h sessions chosen by students from a list of over 900. Students are required to complete ten LOCS in each of their first 2 years of medical school, with at least one per year being in psychiatry. The objective of this study was to evaluate the educational experience of students undertaking LOCS in psychiatry, in part to understand whether this experience affects student understanding of psychiatry and the likelihood that they will pursue it as a career.
A mixed methods approach was used. Qualitative focus group discussions were conducted with medical students to explore perceptions of psychiatry and experiences of psychiatry LOCS. Findings informed the development of a structured quantitative survey aimed at a larger sample of students.
Six qualitative themes emerged: (1) limited exposure to psychiatry, (2) organizational issues, (3) positive LOCS experiences, (4) stigma, (5) anticipated emotional burden, (6) psychiatry at odds with current understanding of medicine. Questionnaire data showed that psychiatry is not a popular future career choice when compared to other specialties. Psychiatry LOCS are extremely popular with students and have a positive effect on their understanding of the specialty but did little to influence their stated likelihood of pursuing psychiatry as a career.
Early exposure to clinical psychiatry through LOCS gives students positive experiences, which improve understanding and awareness of psychiatry. They do not, however, affect stated career intentions for psychiatry as a profession.
KeywordsMedical education Psychiatry education Medical student Medical career choices
The St David’s Medical Foundation contributed £250 toward the study.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to report
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