In 2009, Prof Robert Howard, Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsychUK) said, “Catastrophic is the word I would use for the shortage we are now facing” when he talked about over reliance on overseas doctors due to shortage of psychiatrists in the National Health Service, NHS.
In reality, this is not a unique problem of just an individual country. It certainly is not unique to just doctors when it comes to staffing. It is a pandemic. The matter of recruitment of health care staff is a worldwide matter. The shortage of medical doctors is an international challenge in both developed and developing countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that there is a worldwide shortage of 2.3 million physicians, nurses, and midwives, which is expected to persist in many developing countries.
In 2014, Farooq et al published a cross-sectional survey results looking at career plans of final year medical students from 20 countries and factors that influenced their psychiatric career choice. 15% of the medical students seriously considered psychiatry as a career.
In 2015, Stuart et al published a paper titled Images of Psychiatry and Psychiatrists and found that 90% of respondents considered that psychiatrists were not good role models for medical students in 15 academic teaching centres in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Asia.
Meanwhile, in 2013, a group of bright young and enthusiastic European Federation of Psychiatric Trainees in Zurich and formed what we now know as the Recruitment and Positive Image of Psychiatry (RPIP) Working Group. The RPIP working group in its statement recognised that:
“Recruitment of medical students towards the psychiatric profession is an important issue in many European countries. This issue is closely linked to the image of the psychiatric profession. As psychiatric trainees, we come into direct contact with medical students. EFPT therefore believes that psychiatric trainees should be involved in actions that can improve the image of the psychiatric profession and wants to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas and successful initiatives.”
How visionary were this group of young psychiatric trainees from all across Europe? Very.
Amongst the early action plans of the RPIP Working Group were:
1) Creating of a guide for initiatives to encourage medical students’ interest in psychiatry
2) Looking at image of the psychiatric profession and to reasons why (not) to choose psychiatry
3) Monitoring of recruitment evolution
RPIP Working Group efforts have evolved over the years. There has been a strong focus on research in trying to understand the gaps and challenges pertaining to recruitment. Another strong focus of RPIP is in promoting positive image of Psychiatry through various promotional videos targeting medical students, other medical specialities and the general public.
The debut production of promotional videos titled “Psychiatric Clichés” is a set of four promotional videos created by AFFEP (Association Française Fédérative des Étudiants en Psychiatrie) in cooperation with RPIP WG in 2014. The videos aim at dispelling the prevalent myths and prejudices related to psychiatry and psychiatrists.
Dr Howard Ryland, current EFPT President who is also a member of the RPIP Working Group, in 2016, presented on Recruitment in Psychiatry – an International Perspective at the RCPsychUK International Congress, which was well received.
Apart from recruitment focus, the RPIP Working Group looked at the matter of retention. It took on a more inspirational path from 3 different perspectives through a series of videos titled Role Model, aimed at Psychiatric trainees.
The videos mentioned above are available on YouTube and through links on the EFPT website making it accessible to all. We would also welcome input and improvisation for future applicability. The upcoming project titled Diversity in Psychiatry with aim to provide awareness of what a career in Psychiatry has to offer. One of the quotes from the interviewee that stood out is “ Psychiatry is the final frontier of Medicine”. On reflection, I could not agree more.
As part of EFPT in general, my fellow RPIP comrades and I would like to extend our invitation and welcome to the Bristol Forum in July with aim of shaping the future of psychiatry. The trajectory of Psychiatry is one to be observed and proudly be part of. There is reward in this journey. Let’s make it together.