Background: Earlier research indicated that medical graduates feel unprepared to start work, and that this varies with medical school.
Aims: To examine the extent to which graduates from different UK medical schools differed in their perceptions of preparedness for practice, and compare their perceptions with those of clinical team members.
Method: An anonymous questionnaire assessing perceptions of 53 aspects of preparedness was devised, and administered to the graduating cohorts of three medical schools: Newcastle (systems-based, integrated curriculum); Warwick (graduate-entry) and Glasgow (problem-based learning). In addition, a triangulating questionnaire was cascaded via ward managers to doctors, nurses and pharmacists who worked with new graduates in their first posts.
Results: The response rate for the cohort questionnaire was 69% (479/698). The overall mean preparedness score was 3.5 (on a five-point scale), with no significant difference between schools. On individual items, there were large differences within each site, but smaller differences between sites. Graduates felt most prepared for aspects of working with patients and colleagues, history taking and examination. They felt least prepared for completing a cremation form, some aspects of prescribing, complex practical procedures and for applying knowledge of alternative and complementary therapies, and of the NHS. A total of 80 clinical team questionnaires were completed, similarly showing substantial variation within each site, but smaller differences between sites.
Conclusions: New doctors feel relatively unprepared for a number of aspects of practice, a perception shared by their colleagues. Although medical school has some effect on preparedness, greater differences are common across sites. Differences may reflect hidden influences common to all the schools, unintended consequences of national curriculum guidance or common traits in the graduate populations sampled. Further research is needed to identify the causes.