"It's going to be hard you know…" Teachers' perceived role in widening access to medicine

Kirsty Alexander (Lead / Corresponding author), Sandra Nicholson, Jennifer Cleland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Medical schools worldwide undertake widening access (WA) initiatives (e.g. pipeline, outreach and academic enrichment programmes) to support pupils from high schools which do not traditionally send high numbers of applicants to medicine. UK literature indicates that pupils in these schools feel that their teachers are ill-equipped, cautious or even discouraging towards their aspiration and/or application to medicine. This study aimed to explore teachers' perspectives and practices to include their voice in discussions and consider how medical schools might best engage with them to facilitate WA. Interviews were conducted with high school teachers in three UK regions, working in schools targeted by WA initiatives. Data were analysed thematically using template analysis, using a largely data-driven approach. Findings showed that although medicine was largely seen as a prestigious and worthwhile career, teachers held reservations about advocating this above other choices. Teachers saw it as their role to encourage pupils to educate themselves about medicine, but to ultimately allow pupils to make their own decisions. Their attitudes were influenced by material constraints in their schools, and the perception of daunting, long and emotionally difficult admissions requirements, with low chances of success. Medical schools may wish to work with teachers to understand their hesitations and help them develop the mindset required to advocate a challenging and unfamiliar career, emphasising that this encouragement can further the shared goal of empowering and preparing pupils to feel capable of choosing medicine. Reciprocally, medical schools should ensure pupils have fair opportunities for access, should they choose to apply.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-296
Number of pages20
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Adolescent
  • Attitude
  • Career Choice
  • Child
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Medicine
  • Poverty
  • Professional Role
  • Residence Characteristics
  • School Teachers/psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom


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