Surveys were distributed to medical students at the University of Michigan Medical School, Warren Alpert Medical School, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Of the 1,533 that were sent out, 64.1% were filled out and returned to be evaluated. The findings of these surveys was surprising. Interest in becoming a PCP was at an average of 15% (1st year--11.2%, 2nd year--10.8%, 3rd year--18%, 4th year--21%). These are positive numbers, since more PCPs are needed, so a continued interest in the career path is worthwhile.
But even with this interest, students aren't seeing this chosen career as an overall positive experience. The survey found that students believed patients' ability to pay limited the positive influence physicians could have upon their health and that physicians were often tasked with too much paperwork and not enough time to have an overall positive impact on patient outcome. However, having the opportunity to actually participate in primary care lessened these negative feelings and students recognized the heightened ability to have a good patient/physician relationship.
What can we learn from these findings? For one, students need the opportunity to have hands-on training to correct negative assumptions and stereotypes of medicine. Secondly, medical schools need to continue to foster the positive impact that PCPs have on the overall health of the country. By promoting PCP training, medical schools can ensure that the country's need for primary care will be met.