The current and ideal state of mental health training: pediatric resident perspectives

Teach Learn Med. 2015;27(2):147-54. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2015.1011653.


PHENOMENON: Mental health (MH) problems are prevalent in the pediatric population, and in a setting of limited resources, pediatricians need to provide MH care in the primary medical home yet are uncomfortable doing so citing a lack of training during residency as one barrier.

Approach: The purpose of this study is to describe pediatric residents' experiences and perspectives on the current and ideal states of MH training and ideas for curriculum development to bridge this gap. A qualitative study using focus groups of pediatric residents from an urban academic medical center was performed. Audio recordings were transcribed and analyzed using a grounded theory approach.

Findings: Twenty-six residents participated in three focus groups, which is when thematic saturation was achieved. The team generated five major themes: capabilities, comfort, organizational capacity, coping, and education. Residents expressed uncertainty at every step of an MH visit. Internal barriers identified included low levels of comfort and negative emotional responses. External barriers included a lack of MH resources and mentorship in MH care, or an inadequate organizational capacity. These internal and external barriers resulted in a lack of perceived capability in handling MH issues. In response, residents reported inadequate coping strategies, such as ignoring MH concerns. To build knowledge and skills, residents prefer educational modalities including didactics, experiential learning through collaborations with MH specialists, and tools built into patient care flow. Insights: Pediatric residency programs need to evolve in order to improve resident training in MH care. The skills and knowledge requested by residents parallel the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on MH competencies. Models of collaborative care provide similar modalities of learning requested by residents. These national efforts have not been operationalized in training programs yet may be useful for curriculum development and dissemination to enhance trainees' MH knowledge and skills to provide optimal MH care for children.

Keywords: and behavioral health; mental health; pediatric residency training; resident education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / organization & administration*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / trends
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Pediatrics / education*
  • Psychiatry / education*