Keywords: Methodology; Undergraduated Education, Early Clinical Exposure, Survey
General practice/family medicine (GP/FM) should be the core of the curricula in all universities. Since this is not yet the case allover Europe, research on education may pave the way for necessary changes. Even in one country, the variation in the provision of basic medical education (BME) can be considerable. In the European context, cultural and structural differences add to the variety.
What should you understand before launching a high-quality international survey?
Examples of European-wide surveys by the BME Committee of EURACT will be used to illustrate the joy that are embedded in doing educational research. GP educators from over 10 countries conducted a survey on the topic of early clinical exposure (https://doi.org/10.1080/0142159X.2022.2137014) in 2021. The next survey on the provision and resourcing of GP/FM education in 2023 was more ambitious.
We launched two European cross-sectional electronic questionnaire surveys with closed and open-ended questions. A comparable survey to map European situation we did 10 years ago, allowing us to describe changes. We aimed to have one response from each medical school, but at most ten responses per country.
We learned during the process that each concept should be thoroughly defined. Recruitment is a major challenge. We invited 42 EURACT countries, and received responses from 31 countries. The ways in which different countries implement and administer teaching were eye-opening. The definition of terms such as lecture, seminar, small group teaching or even “full day” seemed to vary extremely. Even more difficult was agreeing on what an “internship” means in the FM/GP setting. Extensive data cleaning loops were necessary, and in the end, not everything could be clarified comprehensively.
The survey must represent Europe's diverse healthcare systems, piloting is essential. Still, surprising results emerge. Although time-consuming, it creates a strong foundation for changes also at the national level.
Points for discussion:
What research question should we work on next?
How to optimize response-rates?
How to anticipate cultural and structural differences across European countries?