Nicholson, S, Hastings, AM and McKinley, RK (2016) Influences on students' career decisions concerning general practice: a focus group study. British Journal of General Practice, 66 (651). pp. 768-775. ISSN 1478-5242

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Background Despite concerns about recruitment to UK general practice, there has been no concerted educational intervention to address them.

Aim To better understand how medical students’ perceptions of their experiences of their undergraduate curriculum may affect choosing general practice as a career.

Design and setting Qualitative study comprising focus groups of a total of 58 students from a range of medical schools across the UK.

Method A range of UK medical schools students were invited by email to participate in focus groups and return a questionnaire detailing their current career choice to facilitate sampling students with varied career preferences. Students late in their studies were sampled as they were likely to be considering future careers. Focus group discussions were audiotaped, transcribed, and anonymised for both school and participant, then thematically analysed. Perceived differences in medical school culture, curriculum philosophy, design, and intent were explored.

Results Six focus groups (58 students) were convened. Some student participants’ career aspirations were strongly shaped by family and home, but clinical placements remained important in confirming or refuting these choices. High-quality general practice attachments are a powerful attractor to general practice and, when they reflect authentic clinical practice, promote general practice careers. GP tutors can be powerful, positive role models. Students’ comments revealed conflicting understandings about general practice.

Conclusion Attracting rather than coercing students to general practice is likely to be more effective at changing their career choices. Early, high-quality, ongoing and, authentic clinical exposure promotes general practice and combats negative stereotyping. It is recommended that increasing opportunities to help students understand what it means to be a ‘good GP’ and how this can be achieved are created.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the accepted author manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Royal College of General Practitioners at Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.
Uncontrolled Keywords: career choice, curriculum, general practice
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > R Medicine (General) > R735 Medical education. Medical schools. Research
Divisions: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Primary Care Health Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 17 May 2016 12:58
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2018 11:34

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