Perceived stress during undergraduate medical training: a qualitative study

Med Educ. 2003 Jan;37(1):32-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2003.01405.x.


Introduction: Medical education is long and emotionally taxing. It can involve levels of stress that lead to disruptions in both physical and mental health. This qualitative study explores the views of Year 5 medical students on the causes of stress throughout their undergraduate medical training.

Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 final year medical students at the University of Birmingham between January and May 2001.

Results: Pressure of work, especially in terms of preparing for examinations and acquiring professional knowledge, skills and attitudes were reported as the most stressful aspects of medical training. Transition periods, particularly between school and medical school, preclinical and clinical training, and clinical training to approaching qualification were highlighted as particularly stressful. A perceived lack of support from the medical school authorities also appeared to add to student stress levels.

Discussion: Student stress may be alleviated by greater guidance and support from the medical school during crucial transition periods. Aspects of professional socialisation may also need to be addressed to reduce the levels of stress associated with undergraduate training for future generations of medical students.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Male
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology