Altern Ther Health Med. 1998 May; 4(3): 68-73.
Complementary therapies and the medical profession: a study of medical students' attitudes.
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
BACKGROUND: Despite the popularity of complementary therapies with the public, knowledge and use of these therapies among doctors appear limited. However, studies show that physicians and medical students are positive toward complementary therapies and have a high level of interest in learning about them. METHODS: The attitudes of medical students toward complementary therapies were examined using a questionnaire distributed to 800 first-, third-, and fifth-year medical students at two universities in Melbourne, Australia. RESULTS: The survey revealed that whereas Australian medical students were positive toward complementary therapies, their self-reported knowledge was low, with 56% having no knowledge of the principles of complementary therapies. Attitudes toward different therapies were found to vary widely, with students having little knowledge of chiropractic and naturopathy, the two therapies most commonly used by Australians. Students consistently scored meditation, massage, and acupuncture the highest with regard to knowledge, perceived usefulness, intended patterns of referral after graduation, and desire for education in the undergraduate degree. CONCLUSIONS: When the medical course included some tuition on complementary therapies, students were more positive toward them. A single lecture on complementary therapies was found to have significant impact on medical students' views. Medical students have a high level of interest in complementary therapies that is not being satisfied by their undergraduate curricula.