Many developed countries have reported shortages of Primary Care (PC) physicians. The lack of a regular primary physician is associated with inferior health outcomes. One strategy to address this shortage is to increase the proportion of medical students selecting a Family Medicine (FM) or PC career. The purpose of this systematic review is to identify whether pre‐clerkship general practice placements increase students’ interest in, and selection of FM or PC residencies.
Three databases (PubMed, Embase, Web of Science) searched for interventional studies of pre‐clerkship generalist placements in medical school. Pooled statistical analysis and meta‐analysis were performed, along with narrative summaries when possible. Intervention participants (IP) were compared to controls matched (MC) for baseline interest in FM and an unmatched sample (UC) of contemporary students.
A 11 studies were identified including a total of 5430 students (2428 intervention participants and 3002 controls). IPs were more likely to match to FM than both MC (Risk Ratio: 1.62 [95% CI: 1.03‐2.55]) and UC (RR: 2.04 [1.46‐2.86]). Participation in long interventions (4‐11 weeks) matched to FM at higher rates than short (25‐40 hours) interventions (RR: 3.15 [2.28‐4.35]). The percentage of students with FM/PC as their top specialty of interest increased after the placements (mean difference: +12.8%, n = 586).
Medical students who participated in pre‐clerkship general practice placements were more likely to match to a FM residency. Longer pre‐clerkship placements had a stronger association with FM specialty choice. The implementation of longitudinal block generalist placements in the pre‐clerkship years is one strategy for increasing interest in generalist careers.
Level of evidence
IV, systematic review of level III and IV studies.