Attitudes towards psychiatry of undergraduate medical students at Bayero University, Nigeria

N C Aghukwa


Background. This study determined and compared responses of 5th- and 6th (final)-year medical students on their attitudes to psychiatry as a profession. Also elicited were their choices of area of future medical specialisation.

Method. A prospective and cross-sectional study using an adapted 27-item self-administered questionnaire to obtain responses from 91 5th- and 6th-year medical students at Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria.

Results. More than 60% of the students’ first choices for future specialisation were surgery, obstetrics/gynaecology or internal medicine. Psychiatry was the first preference for less than 2%. More than 75% of the students’ views on the overall merits and efficacy of psychiatry were positive, although they felt that psychiatry had low prestige and status as a profession. In addition, the same proportion considered that psychiatry was scientific, making advances in the treatment of major mental disorders, and helpful in liaison practice. More than 50% stated that psychiatry would not be their choice of last resort for residency education and the same proportion felt that friends and fellow students rather than family members would discourage them from specialising in psychiatry. More than 50% would feel uncomfortable with mentally ill patients, felt that psychiatry would not be financially rewarding, and did not think that psychiatrists abuse their legal power to hospitalise patients. Attitudes of the two groups of students to psychiatry as a profession were not significantly different (p>0.05).

Conclusion. A clinical clerkship in psychiatry did not influence the students’ choice of future specialisation.


attitudes; students; psychiatry

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Submitted: 12 January 2010
Published: 01 December 2010

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)