What do medical students think about primary care in Malaysia?
Traditionally, primary care has been viewed as a discipline which lacks intellectual depth and prestige. However, recent studies have shown a positive change in students’ and doctors’ attitudes towards the discipline. In Malaysia, more than half of the doctor population practise as GPs, but less than 1% has undergone postgraduate training. Why is there a reluctance to pursue postgraduate studies in primary care? One of the deciding factors is medical students’ perception of primary care. This qualitative study explored medical students’ perceptions of primary care and the factors influencing their perceptions.
Thirty-three final year medical students from University of Malaya and International Medical University participated in six focus group discussions. The students perceived primary care as a discipline that covered breadth of medicine rather than depth. Primary care concepts such as “using time as a tool” and “using doctor-patient relationship to modify behaviour” were difficult to grasp and remained theoretical to them. Their experience with the GPs in the community heavily influenced their perceptions of primary care. Finally, they observed a disparity between what was taught in class and what was actually practised in the “real world”.
This study highlighted the struggle of the discipline to teach primary care. The short posting in the medical curriculum did not allow the students to understand the discipline fully. There is an urgent need to review the teaching methodology and the role of GPs in teaching primary care. This may have a significant impact on the students’ decision to choose primary care as a lifelong career.
(copied from article)