Why we need to change the undergraduate psychiatry curriculum
It is not uncommon for young people to have less than satisfactory relationships with mental health professionals. This seems to be particularly the case for doctors, whether GPs or psychiatrists. Young people have told us that they are not taken seriously and their views are often not listened to.
It is difficult to change people's attitudes and ways of working, but you stand more of a chance if you instil good key principles when people are at their most receptive, which is likely to be when they are students.
On that basis, it was great to be asked to contribute to the revised core curriculum in psychiatry for undergraduate medical students. This curriculum is published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and recommends what undergraduate medical students should be taught concerning psychiatry. Whilst it is only guidance, it does come from a strong voice in the field. The hope is that these students will be adequately taught these elements and keep these good principles with them throughout their career for the benefit of the people who use their services.
Some of the key items within the curriculum are:
- Psychiatric teaching includes children and young people
- Understand normal life adjustments and transitions.
- Understand the difference between normal responses to stress and life events and mental illness
- Understand the importance of confidentiality for all people, including young people
- Screen empathically for common mental health problems
- Be able to communicate well and empathically with young people
- Evaluate the impact of mental illness on the family
- Recognise the importance of developing a therapeutic relationship with patients and enable them to be actively involved in making decisions about their care
- Accept that illnesses of the brain/mind are as important as other parts of the body
- See patients with mental health problems as being as deserving of high standards of medical care as patients with purely physical illnesses.
Information about the curriculum can be found at http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/specialties/faculties/academic/undergraduateteaching/undergraduateteachinggroup/curriculum.aspx