Third of students put off GP career due to 'institutional slang' in medical schools

Up to a third of medical students are put off general practice due to 'institutional slang' in medical schools, research conducted by GPs and presented at the RCGP annual conference has shown.

Dr Simon Thornton presenting his paper at the RCGP annual conference
Dr Simon Thornton presenting his paper at the RCGP annual conference

Lead researcher, Bristol GP Dr Simon Thornton, said GP 'bashing' was widely accepted in medical schools, and this was having a 'negative impact on the prestige of general practice'.

National data shows that the proportion of students opting for general practice ranges widely from 7% at the University of Cambridge to 30% at the University of Lancaster.

To investigate why these differences occur, the team looked at two medical schools – coded as Medical School A and Medical School B.

They compared attitudes and the ‘natural language’ used to refer to general practice within each.

Medical School A was an older, established school with a low proportion of graduates going into general practice, while Medical School B was a newer school with a high proportion of GP graduates.

‘We postulated there would be three main sources of bashing - from faculty members, peers and hospital staff,' said Dr Thornton.

‘The emergent themes of bad-mouthing were the same across both schools. But there were no examples from students or the faculty at the school producing more GPs.’

This was attributed to a difference in values across the schools. Terms such as ‘GP’ and ‘primary care’ were mentioned over 40 times in Medical School B’s prospectus - and not at all in Medical School A’s.

The research was one of a number of GP research projects presented as short papers at the RCGP annual conference in Harrogate.

RCGP campaign

Eariler in the conference, RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker raised the issue of medical school 'banter' and the damaging impact it can have on GP recruitment.

She said: 'The denigration of general practice has to stop. The college is doing what we can to challenge misplaced and archaic stereotypes, and our Think GP campaign, aims to show what a fantastic career choice general practice can be.  But it's clear that more needs to be done from within medical schools, and medicine as a whole.'

She revealed that the college will be launching a student-led campaign to change perceptions of general practice among medical schools.

Full coverage of RCGP annual conference

Photo: Pete Hill

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