Background: Medical students consistently report low rates of interest in psychiatry as a career over time with negative perceptions of the specialty. Only 3-6% of students enter the specialty.
Aim: To explore medical students' current career choices and attitudes to psychiatry and factors affecting these.
Methods: Medical students at four UK medical schools completed a questionnaire related to career specialty choices and psychiatry and their psychiatry placement experiences.
Results: A total of 905 questionnaires were returned. Psychiatry was first career specialty choice in 4% but in the top three choices in 14%. The students in this group who had undertaken clinical placements were more positively inclined towards psychiatry, given more opportunities to practice and receive feedback on psychiatric skills, and more inclined to practice psychiatry later.
Conclusion: One in seven students is interested in psychiatry. Psychiatrists need to find ways to identify these students and target them with individually tailored interventions to help recruitment into the specialty.