Are professional attitudes related to gender and medical specialty?

Med Educ. 1999 Jul;33(7):489-92. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.1999.00333.x.


Objectives: The importance of professional attitudes in medical care has long been recognized; however, medical training has not stressed attitude development until recently. In previous studies among medical students, we found that gender and specialty preference are important factors in attitudes. In this study, patient-centredness of trainees in general practice and surgery and of final-year clerks preferring one of these specialties was assessed in one medical school in The Netherlands. The effect of gender, specialty and training level on attitude was investigated.

Design: In 1995, attitudes of 37 general practice trainees, 31 surgery trainees and 120 clerks were measured anonymously using questionnaires containing the Doctor-Patient Scale. This attitude scale measures patient-centredness vs. doctor-centredness. Response rates were 78%, 58% and 84%, respectively.

Setting: University of Utrecht.

Subjects: Medical students.

Results: Attitudes were related to specialty. General practice trainees showed more patient-centredness than surgery trainees. In accordance with previous findings among younger students, no differences were found between final-year clerks and vocational trainees. In contrast to previous studies, gender was not related to patient-centredness.

Conclusions: Professional attitudes, in particular patient-centredness, seem to be related to specialty preference in the final year of graduate medical training and specialty as a career choice. It remains unclear whether professional socialization reinforces existing attitudes or whether existing attitudes result in specialty preference.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sex Factors
  • Specialization*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*