Can curriculum design influence medical students' attitudes to psychiatry? A comparison of two different approaches.
de Cates AN., de Cates P., Singh SP., Marwaha S.
Medical students with poor attitudes toward psychiatry are unlikely to choose it as a career, and current psychiatry recruitment is inadequate for future NHS needs. Amending medical school curricula has been suggested as one solution. We performed a unique naturalistic mixed-methods cross-sectional survey of two sequential cohorts in a UK medical school, before and after the restructuring of the entire MBChB curriculum. As well as increasing integration with other specialties, the emphasis placed on psychiatry increased throughout the course, but the final psychiatry block reduced from 8 to 6 weeks. Students experiencing the refreshed curriculum had better attitudes to psychiatry and psychiatric patients and were more positive about psychiatry as a career for themselves and others, compared to students on the old curriculum. This was demonstrated both quantitatively using validated rating scales (12/30 questions ATP-30 and 1/6 questions PEAK-6) and qualitatively using free-text responses. Restructuring undergraduate medical curricula to enhance integration may yield added value, including the potential to improve attitudes to specialties previously learned in silos, such as psychiatry. This may improve recruitment and the understanding of mental health for all future doctors.