Objective: Doctors find patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) challenging to manage and some hold negative attitudes towards these patients. It is unknown when and how these views form. This study examines medical trainees' beliefs and influences about MUS.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews with 43 medical trainees. Using an iterative approach, initial emergent themes were explored in subsequent interviews. Data generation continued until thematic saturation was achieved.
Results: Participants had received no training in MUS but had developed views about causes and management. They struggled with the concept of 'diagnosis by exclusion'. Attitudes towards patients had developed through informal clinical observation and interactions with doctors. Many welcomed formal training but identified a need to integrate theoretical learning with clinical application.
Conclusion: Despite limited teaching, medical trainees are aware of the challenges in diagnosing and managing patients with MUS, acquiring attitudes through a hidden curriculum. To be welcomed, training must be evidence-based, theoretically informed, but clinically applicable.
Practical implications: Current medical training fails to equip doctors to engage with MUS and potentially fosters the development of unhelpful views of these patients. Informed teaching on diagnosis and management of MUS is necessary at a trainee level to limit the development of negative attitudes.
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