Neurophobia among general practice trainees: the evidence, perceived causes and solutions

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2014 Jul;122:124-8. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2014.03.021. Epub 2014 Mar 26.


Introduction: As general practice (GP) is the main source of referrals to neurologists, neurology education for GP trainees is important. We investigated the existence of neurophobia, contributing factors and potential prevention strategies among GP trainees.

Methods: In a questionnaire survey interest, knowledge, confidence and perceived difficulty in neurology were compared with different medical specialties. Reasons for difficulty with neurology, postgraduate neurology education experience, learning methods and suggested teaching improvements were examined.

Results: Of 205 GP trainees, 118 (58%) completed the questionnaire. Threshold analyses justified categorical intervals for the Likert responses. Trainees recorded poorer knowledge (p<0.001), less confidence (p<0.001) and more perceived difficulty (p<0.001) with neurology than with any other medical specialty. GP trainees had less interest in neurology than any other medical specialty (Duncan test, p<0.001). There was a similar gradation in difficulty and confidence perception across medical specialties. Hospital and community-based neurology teaching was graded as "poor" or "very poor" by over 60% of GP trainees. There were multiple perceived causes of neurophobia, including neuroanatomy and poor quality teaching. More organised clinical teaching and referral guidance were suggested to address GP neurophobia.

Conclusions: Neurophobia is common among GP trainees in Northern Ireland. GP trainees have clear and largely uniform ideas on improving their neurology education. GP training posts should reflect the importance of neurology within the GP curriculum.

Keywords: General practice; Neurology; Postgraduate education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • General Practice / education*
  • General Practice / standards
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / standards*
  • Neurology / education*
  • Northern Ireland