Factors that influence the choice of psychiatry as a career by medical students at the School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi.
Ndetei David M.
Ngumi, Zipporah W.
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The aim of this paper is to assess the particular factors facilitating and those hampering the choice of psychiatry as a career by medical students at the University of Nairobi in a cross-sectional population study of medical students at the University of Nairobi, College of Health Sciences, School of Medicine using self-administered questionnaires. A total of 31 students (13%) said they would like to be psychiatrists while 44 (18%) were neutral and 170 (69%) did not want to become psychiatrists. The factors that made psychiatry interesting for the students included the view that the problems presented by psychiatric patients were often particularly interesting and challenging and the fact that mental illness presented the field of medicine with one of the greatest challenges. Discouraging factors articulated by the students included views that psychiatry was a vague and speculative speciality, psychiatry was not an important part of the curriculum in medical schools, and psychiatric patients tend to make more emotional demands on their doctors than other patients. There was a negative view of psychiatric patients who most of the students thought were strange, dangerous and incurable, although they were curious to know more about them. Most of the negative influence in psychiatry is due to the misconceptions that students have about its prestige and scope, the rewards it offers in terms of job satisfaction and opportunities and the negative views towards psychiatric patients. Integration of psychiatry into the curriculum may address these misunderstandings.