PITCH: Understanding Medical Students' Perceptions of General Practice

Talk Code: 
Stephen Singh
Ryan Lethem, Stephen Singh, Andrew Blythe
Author institutions: 
University of Bristol


The number of medical school graduates choosing to specialise in General Practice remains proportionately low compared to other specialities. To understand this trend, it is important to consider the influences behind medical students’ choices regarding career direction. This study seeks to analyse the role of key influencers of medical students’ perceptions regarding General Practice. It significantly builds upon the relatively low response rate from students at the University of Bristol during a recent national study on the topic. This kind of information may help to inform interventions to shape the way General Practice is taught at medical school, to optimise the way General Practice is perceived by medical students, and therefore to address longer term issues surrounding recruitment into General Practice.


Data was collected via an online questionnaire sent to all 1334 University of Bristol medical students, between November-December 2017. Participants were asked about their current likelihood of pursuing a career in General Practice, how this had changed since starting medical school, and which factors had influenced this process. In addition, a comparison was made between the importance participants attached to various career factors, and how they perceived these factors within a prospective career in General Practice. A subgroup analysis across genders, age groups and year cohorts was also performed.


There were 360 responses to the questionnaire (27% response rate, compared to a similar national study, which attracted only 44 responses from University of Bristol medical students). Responses were distributed equally across all year cohorts. Overall, participants felt they were more likely to pursue a career as a GP since starting medical school. However, those closest to graduating from medical school scored the least of all year cohorts when asked on the likelihood that they would pursue a career as a GP. Students’ experience of clinical placements was overall the most influential factor in shaping perceptions of General Practice. However, how General Practice is portrayed by colleagues from other specialties appears to become a more influential factor towards the end of medical school. Responses varied between genders and year cohorts; a comprehensive breakdown of the data will be presented.


This study has recognised the key influencers of medical students’ perceptions of General Practice, and has identified a mismatch between the factors medical students consider important to their careers and the factors they perceive a career in General Practice can offer. This data can be useful to inform initiatives to optimise the way General Practice is perceived by medical students, both on a curriculum level and on a recruitment level. These changes may go some way to addressing longer term issues surrounding recruitment into General Practice.

Submitted by: 
Ryan Lethem
Funding acknowledgement: