First year medical students associate GP careers with favourable working hours and flexibility but not with academic or research opportunities, according to a University of Cambridge study of 483 students at three medical schools, published in BJGP Open.
The study was an electronic survey of students beginning their six year courses at three East Anglian medical schools: the University of Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin University and the University of East Anglia, exploring their perceptions of general practice and the things that might influence their long term career choices.
All three groups of students perceived general practice as possessing very low research/academic opportunities and highly favourable working hours, But, asked which factors would be most important for them in their future career, the Cambridge medical students put research/academic opportunities at the top of the list and placed much less importance on favourable working hours and flexibility, in contrast to those at Anglia Ruskin University and the University of East Anglia.
The research is part of a longer term study led by Dr Richard Darnton, Director of the General Practice Education Group at the University of Cambridge’s Primary Care Unit. The six year study will explore the career intentions of medical students and the influences on their career choices as they progress through their course.
The research team on this study includes Dr Paul Wilkinson, the Clinical Dean of the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine. The team say the findings might help to explain why Cambridge students don’t traditionally tend to choose a career in GP.
This study adds weight to calls to describe the value, scope and importance of primary care research more effectively to undergraduate medical students, especially those at Cambridge, where numbers selecting GP as a specialty are low and interest in research careers is high.
For students looking for a research career – who appear to think that primary care doesn’t offer that – our usual methods of encouragement to consider a GP career may not do the job. We need to make sure we start putting those students right about research in primary care as soon as they join medical school, or preferably before. Can we do even more to introduce them to the wealth of opportunity for applied clinical research in primary care and to the world class academic clinicians we have in the UK who are also GPs?”
– Dr Richard Darnton, lead author, Director, General Practice Education Group, University of Cambridge
Read the study
Richard Darnton, Efthalia Massou, James Brimicombe, John Kinnear, Roger Tisi, Alys Burns, Diana F. Wood, Paul O Wilkinson: Career intentions and perceptions of general practice on entry to medical school: baseline findings of a longitudinal survey at three UK universities. BJGP Open
Find out more
Contact: Lucy Lloyd, communications, Primary Care Unit, University of Cambridge
Image: Stevie Mordey for Department of Public Health and Primary Care