BMC psychiatry 2017 03 1617(1) 83 doi 10.1186/s12888-017-1236-z
The majority of research studies on medical student attitudes toward psychiatry focus on influencing factors and the medical school experience. This study evaluates the effectiveness of a one-day visit to a high secure forensic psychiatric unit on medical students’ attitudes towards psychiatry and also assesses career intentions and the factors influencing these.
Change in attitudes and career intention were measured by administering a questionnaire, which included the 30-item Attitudes Toward Psychiatry (ATP-30) survey, at the start (time 1) and end (time 2) of the one-day visit. Qualitative data on factors influencing career choice was also gathered.
Evaluation of 284 responses revealed a significant increase in positive attitude towards psychiatry from time 1 to time 2 in the sample as a whole. The most influential factor on consideration of psychiatry as a career across all groups was the medical school clinical placement. For those that tended away from choosing psychiatry as a career, patient prognosis was important.
Poor recruitment in psychiatry in the UK is already established which will doubtless be compounded by controversies surrounding the proposed new junior doctors’ contract. Now more than ever, the need to inspire and motivate those at medical school encountering psychiatry is crucial. Our findings add to the body of evidence that the medical school clinical attachment is fundamental in shaping attitudes. However, these results also show that a well-planned visit to a specialised psychiatric unit outside of traditional placements can have a significant impact on students’ attitudes toward psychiatry and mental illness in general. There is limited literature in the UK on enrichment activities within the psychiatry medical school curriculum. We propose that developing opportunities for enrichment activities within psychiatry could increase the scope of how we engage students in this fascinating field of medicine.