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Influences on students' career decisions concerning general practice: a focus group study


Background Despite concerns about recruitment to UK general practice, there has been no concerted educational intervention to address them.

Aim To better understand how medical students’ perceptions of their experiences of their undergraduate curriculum may affect choosing general practice as a career.

Design and setting Qualitative study comprising focus groups of a total of 58 students from a range of medical schools across the UK.

Method A range of UK medical schools students were invited by email to participate in focus groups and return a questionnaire detailing their current career choice to facilitate sampling students with varied career preferences. Students late in their studies were sampled as they were likely to be considering future careers. Focus group discussions were audiotaped, transcribed, and anonymised for both school and participant, then thematically analysed. Perceived differences in medical school culture, curriculum philosophy, design, and intent were explored.

Results Six focus groups (58 students) were convened. Some student participants’ career aspirations were strongly shaped by family and home, but clinical placements remained important in confirming or refuting these choices. High-quality general practice attachments are a powerful attractor to general practice and, when they reflect authentic clinical practice, promote general practice careers. GP tutors can be powerful, positive role models. Students’ comments revealed conflicting understandings about general practice.

Conclusion Attracting rather than coercing students to general practice is likely to be more effective at changing their career choices. Early, high-quality, ongoing and, authentic clinical exposure promotes general practice and combats negative stereotyping. It is recommended that increasing opportunities to help students understand what it means to be a ‘good GP’ and how this can be achieved are created.


(2016). Influences on students' career decisions concerning general practice: a focus group study. British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), 768-775.

Acceptance Date May 9, 2016
Publication Date Aug 30, 2016
Journal British Journal of General Practice
Print ISSN 0960-1643
Publisher Royal College of General Practitioners
Pages 768-775
Keywords career choice, curriculum, general practice
Publisher URL


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