What Attracts Medical Students to Primary Care? A Nominal Group Evaluation

Academic Article


  • Objective To examine the perceptions of first-year medical students on their experiences in primary care. Methods Nominal group technique sessions were conducted with first-year medical students for 5 years. Questions were designed to evaluate primary care experiences and the role of primary care physicians. The questions explored what would make them consider primary care, what would detract from it, and what primary care has to offer that no other specialty can. Responses were weighted and ranked. The main outcome was the top five responses to three questions that were obtained at each session. Results Thirty-four students generated 280 responses to 3 questions. The top 5 responses for each year resulted in 29 experiences that strengthen enthusiasm: patient interactions (weighted sum, 43%), physician interactions/role modeling (22%), community interactions (20%), healthcare system/finances (8%), and other (6%). The top 5 responses resulted in 26 experiences that weaken enthusiasm, including hidden curriculum (45%), poor role models (29%), uncertainties about the healthcare system such as finances and documentation (20%), and patient interactions (6%). The top 5 responses regarding the uniqueness of primary care resulted in 37 experiences, including patient interactions (38%), continuity of care (20%), knowledge base (13%), community impact (10%), lifestyle benefits (10%), and education/prevention (9%). Conclusions Medical students highlighted unique relationships with patients and continuity of care as experiences that increase their enthusiasm for primary care. Negative experiences that weakened enthusiasm for primary care included hidden curriculum and poor role models. Programs that provide experiences in primary care can increase student interest in primary care careers.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Weiland G; Cox K; Sweeney MK; Belue M; Snyder ED; Curry WD; Evans HH; Salser BE; Estrada CA
  • Start Page

  • 76
  • End Page

  • 82
  • Volume

  • 112
  • Issue

  • 2