Declining number of psychiatry students is cause for concern

Even though the percentage of psychiatric residents from U.S. allopathic schools choosing psychiatry as a specialty increased slightly last year (up 0.3 percent to 616), the increase does not keep pace with the ever-increasing number of people living in the U.S. with psychiatric conditions. These U.S. graduates filled only 50 percent of available psychiatry residency slots. And that is reason for concern. According to the authors of a recent Academic Psychiatry journal article, academic psychiatrists must acknowledge that there’s an insufficient pipeline of early-career psychiatry trainees, inadequate numbers of specialty and subspecialty physicians in psychiatry overall, and the likely departures of psychiatrists from the field, given that many are nearing retirement. But merely acknowledging the problem is just a first step.

The authors identify a number of efforts that could help increase recruitment. Some of these include:

  • Improving medical students’ understanding of psychiatry as a field with innovation in the clinical neurosciences and expansion of evidence-based psychosocial therapies.
  • Securing funding for more graduate medical education positions allocated to psychiatry.
  • Enhancing the quality of teaching and clinical experiences.
  • Decreasing the stigma toward psychiatry and persons with mental illness. Emphasizing with students the importance of resilience and wellness in approaches to care.
  • Advocating for longer medical student clerkships in psychiatry.
  • Improving medical students’ experience in psychiatry.

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