Experiences and expectations of medical students and GP teachers regarding long-term mentoring relationships in longitudinal general practice tracks - Preliminary results of an ongoing qualitative study

Anna Scholz, Vera Gehres, Anne Schrimpf, Markus Bleckwenn, Tobias Deutsch, Anne-Kathrin Geier

Keywords: General practice track, medical students, mentoring, expectations, qualitative design

To fight the shortage in general practitioners, longitudinal general practice (GP) tracks have been established in medical faculties in Europe and worldwide. In most programs, long-term mentoring relationships play an important role to provide students with positive role models, regular practical experiences and acquisition of clinical skills in a community context. In Leipzig, a six-year extracurricular GP track called LeiKA started in 2016 offering 30 slots per year for interested medical students. Individual preceptors are assigned to each student with regular short-term visits in their community practice over the whole course of study, accompanied by thematic workshops and social events. However, little is known about medical students’ and preceptors’ expectations, experiences, challenges and ideas for improvement within long-term mentoring relationships in general practice.

Research questions:
What are motivations, expectations and experiences of students and preceptors in long-term mentoring relationships? How can these relationships be adjusted and improved?

Semi-structured interviews with students and preceptors from the first three cohorts were conducted via video-call. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. We used MaxQDA for data analysis, following a mixed deductive/inductive approach. Coding was performed by two researchers and results discussed with the whole research group.

The study is still ongoing. Preliminary analysis of 15 student interviews revealed the following topics: Most students are highly satisfied with their mentoring relationship, although expectations are rarely openly discussed between mentors and mentees. If so, expectations are pronounced with regard to professional rather than personal issues. Many students value the relationship because they feel more comfortable and encouraged to actively participate in a familiar setting as compared to similar short-term experiences. Relationships were positively influenced by additional time spent together in the context of longer clerkships.

Longitudinal GP-tracks should encourage and support regular feedback and exchange of expectations between students and preceptors and facilitate joint long-term practice experiences.

Points for discussion:
Do our findings reflect experiences from similar projects?

How can opportunities for regular exchange of expectations and feedback successfully be implemented in the context of everyday patient care?

What is the role of project staff in the support of successful mentoring relationships?