Experiences of patients with mental illness’ interactions with medical students: a systematic review

Joiner, Adam, Dearman, Samuel, Gordon, Morris orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1216-5158 and Vince, Gill (2018) Experiences of patients with mental illness’ interactions with medical students: a systematic review. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 63 (1). pp. 4-11. ISSN 0706-7437

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/0706743717730824


Mental health is a key area for learning within undergraduate medical education. Given the nature of mental illness, interactions may have the potential to uniquely impact patients. This study set out to systematically review studies reporting experiences and perceptions of patients with mental illness’ clinical interactions with medical students. This includes which factors encourage patients to interact with medical students, and if patients perceive negative and positive effects from these interactions.

Studies reporting patient experiences of involvement in undergraduate medicineal were included. A standardized search of online databases was carried out independently by two authors and consensus reached on the inclusion of studies. Data extraction and quality assessment were also completed independently, after which a content analysis of interventions was conducted and key themes extracted. Studies were included from peer-reviewed journals, in any language.

Eight studies from five countries were included, totaling 1088 patients. The majority of patients regard interacting with medical students as a positive experience. Patients described feeling comfortable with medical students, and the majority believes it is important for students to “see real patients”. Patients describe benefits to them as enjoyment, being involved in student education, and developing illness narrative.

Results suggest that most patients with mental illness want to interact with medical students, and this should be encouraged during student placements. Further research however is required to understand in more depth what else can be done to improve the comfort and willingness for patients to interact with students, including barriers to this.

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