Objectives The number of UK graduates choosing General Practice training remains significantly lower than the current numbers required to meet the demands of the service. This work aims to explore medical students’ perceptions of General Practice, experiences which lead to the development of these perceptions, and the ultimate impact of these on career intention.
Design This mixed-methods, qualitative study used focus groups, semistructured interviews, longitudinal audio diary data and debrief interviews to explore and capture the experiences and perceptions of students in their first and penultimate years of university.
Setting Three English medical schools.
Participants Twenty students were recruited to focus groups from first and fourth/fifth year of study. All students in these years of study were invited to attend. Six students were recruited into the longitudinal diary study to further explore their experiences.
Results This work identified that external factors, internal driving force and the ‘they say’ phenomenon were all influential on the development of perceptions and ultimately career intention. External factors may be split into human or non-human influences, for example, aspirational/inspirational seniors, family, peers (human), placements and ‘the push’ of GP promotion (non-human). Driving force refers to internal factors, to which the student compares their experiences in an ongoing process of reflection, to understand if they feel General Practice is a career they wish to pursue. The ‘they say’ phenomenon refers to a passive and pervasive perception, without a known source, whereby usually negative perceptions circulate around the undergraduate community.
Conclusion Future strategies to recruit graduates to General Practice need to consider factors at an undergraduate level. Positive placement experiences should be maximised, while avoiding overtly ‘pushing’ GP onto students.
- medical education & training
- primary care
- primary health care
- qualitative research
- education & training (see medical education & training)
Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request. Anonymised data available on reasonable request from the corresponding author.
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Contributors KB was lead researcher for this work, which forms part of an MD in Medical education. KB performed Newcastle focus group data collection, recruitment, analysis and primary preparation of this manuscript. KB is responsible as guarantor for the overall content of this manuscript. HA reviewed the analysed data, developed the discussion around the analysis and reviewed the primary manuscript in preparation for publication. SAK ran focus groups at University of Manchester and recruited students for the longitudinal study. SAK reviewed and amended this manuscript prior to publication. MMJ ran focus groups at UCL and recruited students for the longitudinal study. MMJ reviewed and amended this manuscript prior to publication. LMP reviewed the analysed data, developed the discussion around the analysis and reviewed the manuscript prior to submission.
Funding Funding for refreshments in focus groups, transcriptions and publications was provided by Newcastle University ERDP fund (N/A). KB was employed in the GP training programme in an integrated clinical and academic post for the majority of this work, which formed part of an MD thesis. Refreshments were provided for focus group attendees. Participants received no compensation for their involvement in this research.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.