General practice worldwide is facing a severe recruitment crisis, with significantly fewer medical students choosing to pursue careers in primary care than are required to meet society's growing demands. The role of GP placements and GP tutors has been highlighted as having a significantly positive influence on medical students' perceptions of general practice. However, how students perceive these experiences to have influenced their subsequent career preferences remains poorly understood.We sought to explore how a longitudinal GP placement influences medical students' preferences regarding a career in general practice, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the significance of such placements. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with five fourth-year medical students using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis methodology.Four overarching concepts were identified, with nine superordinate themes, to describe how a longitudinal placement had influenced medical students' preference regarding a career in general practice. There appears to have been a matching process between an expanding knowledge of the realities of being a GP and an increasing understanding of self. The GP tutor and 'authentic' experiences to consult patients themselves developed a growing sense of self-efficacy within students, all of which resulted in a significant internal desire to become future GPs.
Keywords: Undergraduate education; career preferences; medical students.