Longitudinal research from General Practice Registrars Australia’s (GPRA) Medical Student Survey Report has shown that the General Practice StudentNetwork (GPSN) continues to be effective in promoting general practice to medical students, with 78 per cent of respondents reporting a positive attitude towards general practice compared to 72 per cent in the 2009 survey cohort.
“GPSN works hard to promote the benefits of general practice to medical students. It is encouraging to see medical students affirm these benefits, including its importance in the delivery of healthcare in Australia, its status as a challenging specialty whilst offering flexible training and career options, its involvement of a range of patient presentations, and continuity of care,” says GPSN National Chair Alex Zheng.
“With GPSN members reporting a higher overall positive attitude towards general practice when compared to non-members (88 per cent positive compared to 66 per cent positive), this shows the importance of not just continuing—but extending—the reach and scope of GPSN’s local, state, and national activities,” Mr Zheng said.
“Educating, inspiring, and influencing the medical student cohort is an important step in the process of creating a robust primary healthcare system and reliving the undersupply of GPs, particularly in rural and remote areas of Australia,” says GPRA President Dr Antony Bolton.
“We must continue to foster this positive attitude beyond medical school and well into a doctor’s prevocational years,” Dr Bolton says.
Worryingly, more than a third of respondents rated the views of non-GP doctors as ‘mostly negative’ towards general practice, additionally, the survey reported an evenly divided opinion on general practice being perceived as a ‘back-up’ career option.
“This highlights the continued importance of tackling misconceptions and negative perceptions of GPs amongst medical students, and across the medical profession,” Dr Bolton says.
“General practice is central to delivering high-quality healthcare in Australia and we need to ensure medical students are encouraged to see it as a specialty of choice. Our survey data shows that good experiences during medical students’ GP rotations positively influence the likelihood in pursuing acareer in general practice. This is particularly the case for rural GP placements,” says GPRA Board member and lead researcher Dr Rebekah Hoffman.
“Positive training experiences well beyond medical school are essential, particularly encouraging GP placements in rural and remote areas. Early exposure to rural and remote medicine influences a doctor to eventually live and work in these areas during their GP training and beyond,” Dr Hoffmansays.
Dr Antony Bolton
GPSN National Chair 2021
GPRA Board member and lead researcher
Dr Rebekah Hoffman
About the survey
Data from The Medical Student Survey Report was collected in 2019 and tabled in 2020. 1,129 medical students participated in the survey. The previous survey was run in 2009, providing a useful benchmark to measure the shift in attitudes towards general practice in medical students. GPSN members along with any student attending an Australian medical school were eligible to participate in these surveys.
Established in 2007, GSPN is the only national student network with a focus on general practice, which seeks to promote the benefits of a life and career in general practice. It provides a range of educational and professional resources of interest to all medical students including academic events, professional development events, networking events, an eNewsletter and website, publications, and GP immersion experiences. There are over 20 active GPSN clubs at medical schools across Australian university campuses. As of June 2021, GPSN has nearly 5,000 members.