Royal College calls for an end to ‘Bashing’
The stigma surrounding psychiatry doesn’t begin and end with the
experiences of patients; doctors too experience stigmatisation –
for deciding to become psychiatrists.
Medical students and trainee doctors are reporting that the
badmouthing of certain medical disciplines is impacting on their
freedom to choose psychiatry as a speciality, and the higher
echelons of this specialist branch of medicine are fighting
President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Sir
Simon Wessely is launching a campaign to support medical students
and trainee doctors by exposing the practice of badmouthing - known
as ‘bashing’ - that threatens to deplete an already
under-subscribed medical specialism. A paper
published in BJPsych Bulletin online describes the practice and the
impact it is having on young medics and the medical profession.
Choosing a career specialty is one of the most important
decisions that any medical student will make and one that will
shape the rest of their working lives. Some students decide early
on, or even enter medical school with a good idea of what career
they would like to pursue. For most however, the specialty choice
is made during medical school, with some remaining unsure into
their final year and even as foundation year doctors.
This choice is influenced by many factors, in particular the
teachers the students encounter, experience during clinical
placements, desired work-life balance, and also by gender and
In one large US study, 76% of students had heard badmouthing of
their career choice specialty and 17% stated that this had made
them alter their career choices.
In a more recent survey of third-year US students, family
medicine was the most ‘bashed’ specialty but psychiatry was not far
behind with 39% of students stating that they had heard disparaging
comments about psychiatry.
Psychiatry continues to face a worldwide problem with
recruitment. In the UK, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has
maintained an active recruitment programme for several years, but
rates of students interested in psychiatry as a career remain at
4-5%; insufficient to meet future needs.
The authors of the BJPsych Bulletin paper developed an online
questionnaire-study to ascertain the prevalence and impact of
‘bashing’ in the UK, and a total of 960 medical students completed
the survey. From the list of eight medical specialties provided,
students reported that both psychiatry and general practice
attracted the greatest number of negative comments.
Although 80.5% of students condemned badmouthing as being
unprofessional, 71.5% believed it to be an ever present part of
practising medicine. 57.3% viewed it as ‘just a bit of fun’ but
nearly three quarters (74.0%) agreed that there is an unspoken
hierarchy of specialties in medicine.
Overall, 27.0% of students agreed that they had in fact changed
their career choice as a direct result of negative comments made
Professor Wessely said:
“There is no psychiatrist in the land who cannot remember the
reactions they received from some colleagues - especially the
senior ones - when they announced that they wanted to pursue a
career in psychiatry. A bit of humour is all very well, but
behind this is something unacceptable – an implication that the
best and brightest doctors are somehow wasting their time in
psychiatry. This has to stop, and this campaign is going to do
that. People with mental disorders - just like those with physical
disorders - deserve the best minds to find new treatments and
provide the best care.”
He will launch the campaign on Saturday 27 February at the
Psychiatry Conference 2016 in Edinburgh.
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