Purpose: Although more than 125 million North Americans have one or more chronic conditions, medical training may not adequately prepare physicians to care for them. The authors evaluated physicians' perceptions of the adequacy of their chronic illness care training to and the effects of training on their attitudes toward care of persons with chronic conditions.
Method: In November 2000 through June 2001, the authors surveyed by telephone a random sample of U.S. physicians who had > or =20 hours of patient contact per week. The interview instrument examined demographics, career satisfaction, practice characteristics, perceived adequacy of chronic illness care training in ten competencies (geriatric syndromes, chronic pain, nutrition, developmental milestones, end-of-life care, psychosocial issues, patient education, assessment of caregiver needs, coordination of services, and interdisciplinary teamwork), and effect of training on attitudes toward chronic illness care.
Results: Of 1,905 eligible physicians, 1,236 (65%) responded (270 family or general practitioners, 231 internists, 129 pediatricians, 335 nonsurgical specialists, and 271 surgeons). Most physicians reported their chronic disease training was less than adequate for all ten competencies. Family practitioners were more likely (p <.05) to report adequate training in seven competencies compared with internists, and in two to four competencies when compared with pediatricians, nonsurgical specialists, or surgeons. Most physicians reported that training had a positive effect on attitudes toward care of people with chronic conditions, including the ability to make a difference in their lives (74-84%).
Conclusions: Physicians perceived their medical training for chronic illness care was inadequate. Medical schools and residencies may need to modify curricula to better prepare physicians to treat the growing number of people with chronic conditions.