It’s well known that psychiatry suffers from
an image problem, with many medical students not viewing it as an
attractive career option compared to other specialties.
But a new Scottish study, presented today at
the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in
Edinburgh, suggests that students who complete a short placement in
psychiatry end up viewing the specialty far more positively.
Dr Aravinthan Subbarayan from the Royal
Edinburgh Hospital and Dr Stephen Carey from Stratheden Hospital in
Fife, surveyed 70 fourth-year medical students who carried out a
four-week placement in psychiatry.
Before the placement, four-fifths (83%) of the
students said they considered psychiatry to be an intellectually
stimulating and interesting specialty. However, only a quarter
(25%) said they found it appealing as a career, with the majority
believing it was not perceived as a prestigious career by either
the public or by other doctors. After the placement, however, the
percentage of students saying they found psychiatry appealing as a
career jumped from 25% to 70%. After the placement, the vast
majority of students (94%) reported enjoying psychiatry.
Dr Subbarayan, an ST5 in general adult
psychiatry at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, said: “There was a
positive shift in attitude after the short placements, resulting in
two-thirds of students considering psychiatry as a career option
compared to only a quarter before. This could be a transient
change, but it seems to be a wonderful window of opportunity which
– with further efforts – could attract greater numbers of
interested doctors to our specialty.”
Meanwhile a separate piece of research, also
being presented at the RCPsych International Congress, clearly
shows the effect of psychiatric stigma on doctors’ career
Researchers asked 51 psychiatrists and 50
non-psychiatrists from Birmingham and Coventry about their opinions
of different medical specialties. Among the psychiatrists, 57%
thought the most respected specialty was surgery. However the
majority (also 57%) felt their own specialty, psychiatry, was the
least respected. Of the non-psychiatrists, the most respected
specialty was felt to be medicine (54%), while the least respected
specialties were general practice (30%) and psychiatry (28%).
Many of the psychiatrists said they felt
stigmatised within their own profession. Two-fifths (41%) thought
their advice was not valued by non-psychiatric colleagues, while
over half (55%) felt there was a stigma attached to being
associated with mental illness. Two-thirds (63%) felt that trainees
did not choose psychiatry because they perceived it as being
Lead researcher Dr Gayathri Burrah, of
Coventry & Warwickshire Partnership Trust, said: “We found
differences in how psychiatry is viewed by psychiatrists and other
medical professionals. This may explain some of the problems with
recruitment into psychiatry.”
For further information, please
McLoughlin in the Communications Department.
Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 07738 349070
The two pieces of research were presented at the 2010 International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Edinburgh, 21-24 June.