Premedical Students’ Attitudes Toward Primary Care Medicine

Elizabeth A. Beverly, PhD; Delia A. Wietecha, BS; Kelly Nottingham, MPH; Laura J. Rush, DVM, PhD; and Timothy D. Law, Sr, DO, MBA
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Accepted: December 4, 2015

Published: May 1, 2016

J Osteopath Med; 116(5): 302-309

Context: Expanded insurance coverage will likely increase the demand for primary care physicians in the United States. Despite this demand, the number of medical students planning to specialize in primary care is decreasing.

Objectives: To explore premedical students’ attitudes toward the primary care specialty.

Methods: Students enrolled in premedicine at a large Midwestern university were invited to complete the Primary Care Attitudes Survey (Cronbach α=.76). This 25-item survey measures attitudes about primary care on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1, “strongly disagree” to 5, “strongly agree.” Basic sociodemographic characteristics were assessed using descriptive statistics, and frequencies of individual survey responses were calculated using SPSS statistical software version 21.0.

Results: A total of 100 premedical students (mean [SD] age, 19.8 [1.5] years; 59 female, 82 white non-Hispanic, and 33 freshman) completed the survey. Of 100 students, 33 planned to pursue primary care; 66 thought that primary care physicians would always have a job; 25 thought that primary care may become obsolete as medicine becomes more specialized; 48 thought that physician assistants and nurse practitioners would take over many primary care duties in the future; 91 thought that primary care physicians make important contributions to medicine; and 84 agreed that primary care focuses on the whole patient.

Conclusions: Premedical students held positive views about the importance of primary care; however, many expressed uncertainty about the stability of primary care careers in the future. Further, a substantial number of students believed common misconceptions about the scope and practice of primary care, such as primary care doctors are gatekeepers and mostly diagnose colds and ear infections.

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