Objectives: This study examined the impact of psychiatric teaching on attitudes toward psychiatry of a cohort of medical students by means of a questionnaire survey. The impact of social desirability bias on questionnaire responses was also explored. Gender and nationality subgroups in the cohort were examined in more detail to determine whether these variables had any bearing on attitude change.
Methods: Fifth year medical students at NUI Galway completed the Attitudes to Psychiatry-30 questionnaire at the beginning and end of the psychiatric curriculum.
This was coupled to the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (13 items) to determine the effect of this potential bias on responses to the attitudinal scale.
Anonymity was ensured by using unique identification codes on the questionnaires, which facilitated individual comparisons of pre- and post-teaching responses.
Results: Attitudes toward psychiatry were positive prior to training but significantly improved following the teaching programme.
There was no difference in attitudinal change between male and female subgroups.
While students from outside the EU did show an improvement in mean scores on the ATP-30 this increase failed to reach significance. This finding was in contrast to the results for students from EU states whose mean increase on the ATP-30 was highly significant.
Social desirability questionnaire scores fell significantly between the first and second administration, lending support to the findings being a true reflection of the students' attitudes toward psychiatry.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that a teaching programme has the ability to influence students' attitudes. This is encouraging for recruitment into psychiatry and overall patient care.