The objective of this survey was to investigate undergraduate German medical students’ attitudes toward child and adolescent psychiatry (CAP) and to describe the characteristics of students considering CAP as a possible career choice.
The authors conducted a cross-sectional, multicenter survey of medical students (at the time of their first CAP lecture) at seven German medical schools. The students completed an anonymous self-report questionnaire, asking about their attitude toward CAP and their view of CAP as a possible career choice.
Of the 574 students, 42.9% had “high” or “very high” interest in CAP, and 59.4% rated CAP basic knowledge as “highly” or “very highly” relevant for their prospective work as physicians. CAP was a possible career choice for 25.4%. The most frequently mentioned reasons for choosing CAP were interesting clinical cases (65.8%), helping ill children (52.1%), and close patient–physician contact (50.7%). The most frequently mentioned reasons against this decision were a definite decision for another subspecialty (54.8%), expected difficulties in working with parents and family members (35.3%), and an expected high emotional burden (29.6%). In addition to the highly significant correlation with general interest in CAP, students with previous experience in general psychiatry and CAP clinical courses, as well as female students and students with relatives or acquaintances with CAP-related disorders, showed the highest interest in CAP as a possible career choice.
The majority of the students surveyed showed a positive attitude toward CAP and considered CAP basic knowledge to be relevant for their future work. When designing recruitment strategies, it may be helpful to consider that CAP exposure early in the curriculum might be decisive and that students with previous clinical courses in this field, as well as female students, showed the highest interest in CAP as a possible career choice.