Big fish in a small pond: how medical students feel their worth in small communities

Have you ever wondered if serving in a small community is right for you? How will your patient interactions stack up compared to those you might have in a more urban setting? What about the quality of training you’ll receive versus other residents in a larger hospital system?  If these are questions you’ve thought about while considering residency placement, check out this new research published in Rural and Remote Health on Correlations between community size and student perceptions of value“, describing just how appreciated medical residents feel in their rural communities!

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  The purpose of this study was to determine if medical students’ feeling of being valued was correlated to community size. The study, conducted in several communities in South Dakota, examined students’ feeling of value relating to attending physicians, healthcare teams and patients.
Methods:  Student value items were added to student satisfaction surveys sent out to students at the end of their primary clinical year and data collected from two graduating classes of students (n=114). Student responses were grouped by clinical campus and mean responses by community size were calculated. Additionally, student encounter logs were reviewed for study participants to gauge participation levels during clinical encounters.
Results: The degree to which students felt valued by their physician attending, the healthcare team and the patients decreased consistently as community size increased. Differences were statistically significant between students in the smallest and largest communities. Additionally, students in the community of 15 000 felt significantly more valued than students in the community of 170 000. Furthermore, there also appears to be a relationship between the percentage of participation in patient care by students and community size. Students in the smaller, rural communities participated at a higher percentage rather than observing.
Conclusions:  There appears to be a relationship between community size and the extent to which students feel value. The degree to which students felt valued decreased consistently as community size increased. Differences were statistically significant between students in the smallest communities and the two largest communities. Students in the smaller, rural communities participated at a higher percentage. Additional studies are needed to address whether students participate more as a result of feeling valued, or whether participation leads to an enhanced perception of value by students.

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