Australian medical students’ desire to become a general practitioner: has it changed between 2009 and 2019?
Tuesday, October 19th, 2021
There is major concern given the reduction in junior doctors applying for general practice training positions, which has considerably dropped in recent years. It is possible that medical student perceptions of a career in general practice influence the later decision to choose general practice as their first-choice specialty and apply for general practice training positions.
To examine the changes in Australian medical student perceptions of a career in general practice by a cross-sectional analysis of student cohorts in 2009 and 2019.
Two identical cross-sectional studies were administered in 2009 and 2019 via an online quantitative survey to understand medical student perceptions of a career in general practice.
Almost 6% of all Australian medical students responded to the survey (1129 in 2019 and 1227 in 2009). Medical students’ positive perceptions of a career in general practice increased by 6.5% from 2009 to 2019 (p<0.0001). Over the same period, the proportion of respondents who agreed that general practice provides the opportunity to pursue diverse special interests increased by 12% (p<0.001), while there was a 9.8% increase in respondents who agreed that general practitioners have a healthy work-life balance (p<0.001). One in five respondents reported not knowing or feeling neutral towards the ability for general practitioners to earn a sufficient income. General practice was perceived to be as challenging as other specialties in both surveys.
Medical students’ positive perceptions of holistic patient-centred care, ability to pursue special interests, and work-life balance are important in ensuring a sustainable primary care workforce. Further education regarding the ability of general practitioners to receive appropriate remuneration is crucial to encouraging medical students to pursue a career in general practice. Given the consistently high levels of interest from medical students, future interventions should shift to focus on promoting general practice to junior doctors.