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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 53 (2011) 8, 519 - 530

New research

Medical students and their attitude to psychiatry

O.M. den Held, I.R.H.J. Hegge, D.J.F. van Schaik, A.J.L.M. van Balkom

background The attitudes of medical students to psychiatry are important for the future care of patients with psychiatric (co)morbidity. Up till now the attitude of medical students to psychiatry has not been investigated in the Netherlands and the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium.
aim To measure the attitude of third year medical students towards psychiatry by means of the atp-30. This is a validated instrument, used internationally. To determine the extent to which medical students’ attitudes were influenced by the psychiatry curriculum and by some sociodemographic determinants and which aspects of a career – according to earlier Dutch research – made students decide to opt for a particular specialism.
method Our research was of the prospective cohort type; without controls. The design was a pre- and post design.
results Attitudes to psychiatry were generally positive (n = 262, atp score: 106.1, sd 10.9, atp score ≤ 90 was regarded as negative) and improved after students received instruction in psychiatry. Men were less positive than women. Students who previously had positive experiences with the psychiatric services had higher scores. Foreign students, mainly from non-Western countries, had lower scores. After these foreign students had completed their studies in the Netherlands, there was no longer any significant difference between the scores of the two groups.
conclusion Attitudes to psychiatry are positive within our cohort. Tuition has a positive effect on students’ attitudes. The less positive score of the foreign students at the start of their course is probably due to the fact that they were not familiar with psychiatry and psychiatric services.

keywords ATP-30, attitude, curriculum, medical training, psychiatry