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Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1986 December 20; 293(6562): 1607–1610.
PMCID: PMC1351871

Medical students' beliefs about nine different specialties.


A total of 449 preclinical and postclinical students from three London University medical schools completed one of nine versions of a 50 item questionnaire seeking their attitudes to nine specialties: anaesthetics, general practice, gynaecology, hospital medicine, paediatrics, pathology, psychiatry, radiology, and surgery. There were three main findings. Firstly, though item by item analysis yielded interesting and predictable differences, such as the negative attitudes to psychiatry, the students' attitudes and beliefs were multidimensional: whereas any specialty might be seen as highly positive on one dimension--for example, effectiveness--it might be seen as highly negative on another--for example, relationships with patients. Secondly, the nine specialties seemed to be discriminative on two dimensions--soft versus hard; general versus specific--such that psychiatry was seen as soft and specific, general practice soft and general, and surgery hard but neither general nor specific. Thirdly, these attitudes tended to differ between preclinical and clinical students, but only modestly, in that some extreme (positive and negative) attitudes were modified by experience.

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