Student perceptions of reproductive health education in US medical schools: A qualitative analysis of students taking family planning electives

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Abortion services will be sought by an estimated one in three US women before they reach age 45. Despite the importance of family planning (FP) care, many medical schools do not currently offer formal education in this area, and students are unable to meet associated competency standards prior to graduation.<br /><br />PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to explore students' motivations in pursuing FP electives throughout the United States, their experiences during these courses, and any impact of these rotations on their plans for future practice.<br /><br />METHOD: We conducted a qualitative study consisting of semi-structured interviews with medical students upon completing fourth-year FP electives at US medical schools. Thirty-seven LCME-accredited US medical schools offered fourth-year FP electives. Course directors at 21 of these institutions recruited study participants between June 2012 and June 2013. Interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed with ATLAS/ti software to identify salient themes.<br /><br />RESULTS: We interviewed 29 students representing 14 institutions from all regions of the United States (East Coast, Midwest, South, and West Coast). Five central themes emerged. Medical students are using FP electives to fill gaps in the standard curriculum. Elective participation did not change students' pre-elective stance on abortion. Many students intend to provide abortion in the future but identified possible limiting factors. Proficiency in contraception and options counseling were top competencies desired and gained. Students reported excellent satisfaction with FP electives and would recommend it to their peers, regardless of their personal beliefs.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: Interview data revealed that students are using FP electives to fill gaps within preclinical and clinical medical school curriculum. Future physicians will be unable to provide comprehensive care for their female patients if they are not provided with this education. Research should be directed at development and analysis of comprehensive FP curricula, which will allow students to obtain the knowledge necessary to best care for their patients.

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Veazey, K., Nieuwoudt, C., Gavito, C., & Tocce, K. (2015). Student perceptions of reproductive health education in US medical schools: A qualitative analysis of students taking family planning electives. Medical Education Online, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.3402/meo.v20.28973

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