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Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00049

Predicting Medical Students’ Current Attitudes Towards Psychiatry, Interest in Psychiatry and Estimated Likelihood of Working in Psychiatry: A Cross-Sectional Study in Four European Countries

 Ingeborg Warnke1*, Alex Gamma1,  Maria Buadze1,  Roman Schleifer1, Carlos Canela1, Bernd Strebel2,  Tamás Tényi3,  Wulf Rössler4, 5, 6, Nicolas Rüsch7 and  Michael Liebrenz1
  • 1University of Bern, Switzerland
  • 2Evangelisches Krankenhaus Hagen-Haspe, Germany
  • 3University of Pécs, Hungary
  • 4University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • 5University of São Paulo, Brazil
  • 6Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany
  • 7University of Ulm, Germany

Psychiatry as a medical discipline is becoming increasingly important due to the high and increasing world-wide burden associated with mental disorders. Surprisingly, however, there is a lack of young academics choosing psychiatry as a career. Previous evidence on medical students’ perspectives is abundant but has methodological shortcomings. Therefore, by attempting to avoid previous shortcomings, we aimed to contribute to a better understanding of the predictors of the following three outcome variables: current medical students’ attitudes towards psychiatry, interest in psychiatry and estimated likelihood of working in psychiatry.
The sample consisted of N = 1356 medical students at 45 medical schools in Germany and Austria as well as regions of Switzerland and Hungary with a German language curriculum. We used snowball sampling via Facebook with a link to an online questionnaire as recruitment procedure. Snowball sampling is based on referrals made among people. This questionnaire included a German version of the Attitudes Towards Psychiatry Scale (ATP-30-G) and further variables related to outcomes and potential predictors in terms of sociodemography (e.g. gender) or medical training (e.g. curriculum-related experience with psychiatry). Data were analysed by linear mixed models and further regression models.
On average, students had a positive attitude to and high general interest in, but low professional preference for, psychiatry. A neutral attitude to psychiatry was partly related to the discipline itself, psychiatrists or psychiatric patients. Female gender and previous experience with psychiatry, particularly curriculum-related and personal experience, were important predictors of all outcomes. Students in the first years of medical training were more interested in pursuing psychiatry as a career. Furthermore, the country of the medical school was related to the outcomes. However, statistical models explained only a small proportion of variance.
The findings indicate that particularly curriculum-related experience is important for determining attitudes towards psychiatry, interest in the subject and self-predicted professional career choice. We therefore encourage the provision of opportunities for clinical experience by psychiatrists. However, further predictor variables need to be considered in future studies.

Keywords: Attitudes towards psychiatry1, interest in psychiatry2, professional preference3, multivariable modelling4, curriculum-related experience5, gender6, medical school7, study year8

Received: 14 Nov 2017; Accepted: 06 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Adriana Mihai, University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Târgu Mureş, Romania

Reviewed by:

Bulent Coskun, Kocaeli University, Turkey
Jana Chihai, State Medical and Pharmacy University "Nicolae Testemitanu", Chisinau, Republic of Moldova, Moldova
Costin Roventa, Hospital Pr dr Al Obregia, Romania  

Copyright: © 2018 Warnke, Gamma, Buadze, Schleifer, Canela, Strebel, Tényi, Rössler, Rüsch and Liebrenz. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Ingeborg Warnke, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland,