What is the role of near-peer mentoring in informing medical students about a career in general practice?
It is essential that medical students can make informed choices about a career in general practice. A report released by Health Education England (Wass et al) titled ‘By Choice-not by chance, supporting medical students towards a future career in general practice’ outlined a number of recommendations on increasing recruitment into general practice. The report illustrated the need for strong general practice role models and a contribution from near-peers to better inform medical students about a career in general practice. A qualitative study was carried out looking at perceptions of medical students before and after the introduction of a near-peer mentoring scheme between UCL medical school students and UCL affiliated GP trainees.
Ethical approval was sought prior to the project being initiated. Questionnaires and focus groups were undertaken before and after the near-peer mentoring project to consider changes in the perception of general practice as a result of near-peer mentoring. This was considered in the context of the theory of change. Responses were transcribed and thematic analysis carried out using Nvivo software.
Overall, near-peer mentoring was appreciated by students and feedback was resoundingly positive. Limitations should be considered including the self-selecting nature of both mentors and mentees . Key themes included the fact that many students drew on experiences in general practice and this was a major factor impacting on their perception of general practice as a career prior to participating in the near-peer mentoring scheme. Overall, near-peer mentoring was found to enhance perception of role model and provided students with a more holistic outlook on general practice as a career.
This project clearly indicates that there is scope for a wider reaching near-peer mentoring schemes, which could provide vital information and inspiration into a career in general practice. Moreover, this model could also have potential to be adapted at different training levels to provide greater cohesion between healthcare trainees and professionals through near-peer mentoring support.