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October 1981

Medical Students' Attitudes About Psychiatry: Implications for Psychiatric Recruitment

Author Affiliations

From the Psychiatry Education Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md. Dr Nielsen is now with Northwestern University School of Medicine, Chicago.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1981;38(10):1144-1154. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1981.01780350078009

• A questionnaire study of 204 senior medical students at two East Coast schools revealed that most were favorable about psychiatry and psychiatrists. When queried concerning criticisms, many stated doubts about the scientific rigor, therapeutic efficacy, and appropriate roles of psychiatrists. Psychiatric clerkships strongly influenced student attitudes. Students were especially pleased with opportunities to work directly with patients and to observe psychiatrists doing so. Students were negatively influenced by the antipsychiatry views of nonpsychiatric faculty, house staff, and peers. The findings are discussed with reference to various explanations for the recent decline in psychiatric recruitment and a connection with the rise of family practice is proposed. Direct confrontation of student criticisms, questions, and misconceptions about psychiatry and advocacy of the special expertise and practice opportunities may improve both students' attitudes and psychiatric recruitment.

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