Longer placements in general practice encourage doctors to choose GP careers

The majority of medical trainees who undertake additional training placements in general practice ultimately choose a career in the profession, a Swiss study has found.

The findings are the latest to bolster the case for increasing exposure to general practice among young doctors. GPonline reported last year that greater exposure to general practice contributed to a rise in medical students choosing to work as GPs, and one university tripled its GP trainee output after increasing time students spent in general practice placements.

The latest findings are from a programme in Switzerland offering longer GP training placements, which found that most trainees later opted for a career in general practice.

As in the UK, Switzerland also has a shortage of GPs, according to a paper published in BMC Family Practice.

GP training

The study looked at over 350 trainees who opted to take an additional GP training module in a GP practice between 2006 and 2015.

Of this group, 57% were practising GPs by 2016, and between just 2006 and 2010, three quarters (73%) opted to become GPs.

It found three factors associated with GPs choosing a career. These were the length of training modules in general practice, the ability to undertake training part-time – and therefore for longer – and whether trainees felt competent at the end of the training module.

Four in five (81%) of those practising as GPs said the optional training module was ‘important’ or ‘very important’ in their later choice of specialty.

The researchers said the results suggested trainees should be offered GP placements that last longer than six months, or the ability to undertake them part-time, to help convince more to become GPs.

Career choice

But they added further research was required to determine the 'flow of causality' - whether trainees interested in general practice choose longer programmes or whether longer programmes convince more trainees to become GPs.

They said: ‘GP trainees who spent more time training in a GP practice, or who trained part-time were more likely to become practising GPs.

‘Most rated their training module as (very) important in their choice of career, highlighting that these modules effectively encourage the interests of those already inclined towards the GP specialty.

‘Longer GP training modules and more opportunities for part-time training may attract and retain more interested trainees, and possibly increase the number of practising GPs.’

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