10-15% of students struggle at some point in their medicine course. Risk factors include weaker academic qualifications, male gender, mental illness, UK ethnic minority status, and poor study skills. Recent research on an undergraduate medicine course provided a toolkit to aid early identification of students likely to struggle, who can be targeted by established support and study interventions. The present study sought to extend this work by investigating the number and characteristics of strugglers on a graduate-entry medicine (GEM) programme.
A retrospective study of four GEM entry cohorts (2003–6) was carried out. All students who had demonstrated unsatisfactory progress or left prematurely were included. Any information about academic, administrative, personal, or social difficulties, were extracted from their course progress files into a customised database and examined.
362 students were admitted to the course, and 53 (14.6%) were identified for the study, of whom 15 (4.1%) did not complete the course. Students in the study group differed from the others in having a higher proportion of 2ii first degrees, and scoring less well on GAMSAT, an aptitude test used for admission. Within the study group, it proved possible to categorise students into the same groups previously reported (struggler throughout, pre-clinical struggler, clinical struggler, health-related struggler, borderline struggler) and to identify the majority using a number of flags for early difficulties. These flags included: missed attendance, unsatisfactory attitude or behaviour, health problems, social/family problems, failure to complete immunity status checks, and attendance at academic progress committee.
Problems encountered in a graduate-entry medicine course were comparable to those reported in a corresponding undergraduate programme. A toolkit of academic and non-academic flags of difficulty can be used for early identification of many who will struggle, and could be used to target appropriate support and interventions.