Maintaining patient-centredness in Australian medical students: Culture, curriculum and selection criteria


  • Catherine Harding The University of Notre Dame AustraliaSchool of Medicine SydneyRural Clinical School (Wagga Wagga)
  • Alexa Seal The University of Notre Dame Australia School of Medicine Sydney Rural Clinical School (Wagga Wagga)
  • Ruan Vlok The University of Notre Dame Australia School of Medicine Sydney Rural Clinical School (Wagga Wagga) Work was conducted while Ruan was a student at Notre Dame. He is currently based at Royal North Shore Hospital
  • Zelda Doyle The University of Notre Dame Australia School of Medicine Sydney Rural Clinical School (Lithgow)
  • Andrew Dean The University of Notre Dame Australia School of Medicine Sydney Rural Clinical School (Ballarat)
  • Joe McGirr The University of Notre Dame Australia School of Medicine Sydney Rural Clinical School (Wagga Wagga) Joe was Dean at Notre Dame when the research was conducted. He is now the member of parliament for Wagga Wagga.


medical students, patient-centredness, patient practitioner orientation scale (PPOS)


Introduction: Previous studies have shown that patient-centredness may become eroded as students progress through medical training. The primary objective of this study was to explore the differences in patient-centred attitudes between first- and final-year students in the context of an Australian medical school. The secondary objective was to determine whether student factors such as age, gender, background (rural/urban), discipline of previous degree and specialty of interest were associated with patient-centred attitudes.

Methods: This cross-sectional study surveyed 214 first-year and 141 final-year Australian medical students in 2016 and 2017 (total n = 355). Score on the Patient–Practitioner Orientation Scale (PPOS) was the main outcome measure.

Results: Anonymous questionnaires were completed by 355 students (76.2%). Mean PPOS score was 4.51 (SD 0.46). Although there was no difference in mean PPOS between first-year and fourth-year students, female respondents were significantly more patient-centred than male respondents (4.58 vs 4.42, p = 0.002). Students with an interest in a surgical specialty had significantly lower patient-centredness than students with a non-surgical specialty of interest (4.36 vs 4.55, p = 0.002). Having general practice intentions was not associated with higher patient-centredness. Students with a previous humanities-based degree had higher patient-centredness than students with previous degrees in different areas (4.67 vs 4.49, p = 0.025). 


There appears to be no erosion of patient-centredness between first-year and fourth/final-year students. Medical student selection and university culture may have influenced this finding.


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How to Cite

Harding, C., Seal, A., Vlok, R., Doyle, Z., Dean, A., & McGirr, J. (2022). Maintaining patient-centredness in Australian medical students: Culture, curriculum and selection criteria. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 23(2), 35–50. Retrieved from