Incorporating the interaction between health and work into the undergraduate medical curriculum - a qualitative evaluation of a teaching pilot in English medical schools

Educ Prim Care. 2021 May 16;1-9. doi: 10.1080/14739879.2021.1914182. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: There is a growing recognition of the impact of work on health both positive and negative. It is important that all health care professionals are equipped to understand the effects of work and worklessness on health and help patients remain in work or manage a healthy return to work where appropriate. Despite explicit reference to health and work in the General Medical Council's Outcomes for Graduates, currently, this is not a theme that is integrated across the undergraduate medical curricula.Aim: This study evaluates medical tutors' and undergraduates' perspectives of a selection of health and work topics in a teaching pilot to consider the suitability and appropriateness for delivery, integration into the curriculum, tailoring of the resources, and appropriateness and expected attainment of learning objectives.Methods: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews and focus groups were carried out with five medical tutors and 36 undergraduates. Interviews and focus groups were recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed.Results: Medical tutors and undergraduates identified suitability of appropriate subject specialities and years of teaching, whether learning objectives were important and if these had been achieved, and recommendations for future delivery.Discussion: Medical tutors were committed to delivering the health and work topics with the flexibility of tailoring the resources to existing subject specialities and with respect to the year of study. Learning objectives were perceived appropriate by tutors, despite ambivalence about their importance from some undergraduates. Resources were identified as having relevance to public health undergraduate teaching and during general practice placements.

Keywords: Health; clinical training; medical education; pedagogy; undergraduate curriculum; work.