• Vol. 42 No. 11, 559–566
  • 15 November 2013

Neurophobia in Medical Students and Junior Doctors—Blame the GIK



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Introduction: We aimed to create a definition of neurophobia, and determine its prevalence and educational risk factors amongst medical students and junior doctors in Singapore.

Materials and Methods: We surveyed medical students and junior doctors in a general hospital using electronic and paper questionnaires. We asked about knowledge, interest, perceived difficulty in neurology, and confidence in managing neurology patients compared to 7 other internal medicine specialties; quality and quantity of undergraduate and postgraduate neuroscience teaching, clinical neurology exposure, and postgraduate qualifications. Neurophobia was defined as ≤4 composite score of difficulty and confidence with neurology.

Results: One hundred and fifty-eight medical students (63.5%) and 131 junior doctors (73.2%) responded to the questionnaire. Neurophobia prevalence was 47.5% in medical students, highest amongst all medical subspecialties, and 36.6% in junior doctors. Multivariate analysis revealed that for medical students, female gender (OR 3.0, 95% CI, 1.3 to 6.7), low interest (OR 2.5, 95% CI, 1.0 to 6.2), low knowledge (OR 10.1, 95% CI, 4.5 to 22.8), and lack of clinical teaching by a neurologist (OR 2.8, 95% CI, 1.2 to 6.6) independently increased the risk of neurophobia. For doctors, low interest (OR 3.0, 95% CI, 1.3 to 7.0) and low knowledge (OR 2.7, 95% CI, 1.2 to 6.2) independently increased the risk of neurophobia, and female gender was of borderline significance (OR 2.0, 95% CI, 0.9 to 4.6).

Conclusion: Neurophobia is highly prevalent amongst Singapore medical students and junior doctors. Low interest and knowledge are independent risk factors shared by both groups; female gender may also be a shared risk factor. The mnemonic GIK (Gender, Interest, Knowledge) identifies the risk factors to mitigate when planning teaching strategies to reduce neurophobia.

Neurology is often felt to be a challenging subject. The term “neurophobia” has been coined, partly in jest, to describe “a fear of the neural sciences and clinical neurology”. Several studies have explored neurophobia in different teaching environments and countries and concluded that both medical students and doctors have low confidence, knowledge, and perceived high difficulty, despite variable levels of interest in neurology, as compared to other subjects in internal medicine.

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