Background: There is a decline in the relative numbers of general practitioners in Germany. Earlier research showed that the professional relationship between general practitioners and specialists is overshadowed by conflicts which could influence medical students not to choose a career in general practice. The aim of the study is to analyse potential discrepancies between general practitioners' self-perception of their professional role and their social self-image in relation to medical specialists and to identify potential barriers that might prevent medical students from becoming a general practitioner.
Methods: A qualitative study design consisting of 16 interviews with general practitioners was chosen. Data analysis was carried out using the qualitative content analysis by Philipp Mayring.
Results: There is a discrepancy between general practitioners' professional self-perception and how they perceive they are viewed by specialists. General practitioners communicate a positive self-perception of their professional role. While general practitioners think that specialists in outpatient care have a positive view on general practice, it is assessed to be negative by specialists working in hospitals and as medical teachers.
Conclusion: The negatively influenced social self-image may originate particularly from "badmouthing" general practitioners at universities and in hospitals. "Badmouthing" demonstrates the importance of the consideration of psychological aspects in medical teachers and hospital specialists acting as role models. Negative comments should be considered as an important factor in influencing medical students and trainees' career choices. These aspects should be more integrated in future medical education curricula.