A survey of psychiatric residency directors on current priorities and preparation for public-sector care

Michael Yedidia, Colleen C. Gillespie, Carol A. Bernstein

Publication Date: 01/01/2006

Objective: This study assessed how resident psychiatrists are being prepared to deliver effective public-sector care. Methods: Ten leaders in psychiatric education and practice were interviewed about which tasks they consider to be essential for effective public-sector care. The leaders identified 16 tasks. Directors of all general psychiatry residency programs in the United States were then surveyed to determine how they rate the importance of these tasks for delivery of care and how their training program prepares residents to perform each task. Results: A total of 114 of 150 residency directors (76 percent) responded to the survey. Factor analysis divided 14 of the tasks into three categories characterized by the extent to which their performance requires integration of services: within the mental health system (for example, lead a multidisciplinary team), across social service systems (for example, interact with staff of supportive housing programs), and across institutions with different missions (for example, distinguish behavioral problems from underlying psychiatric disorders among prisoners). Preparation for tasks that involved integration of services across institutions was rated as least important, was least likely to be required, and was covered by less intensive teaching modalities. Tasks entailing integration within the mental health system were rated as most important, preparation was most likely to be required, and they were covered most intensively. Midway between these two categories, but significantly different from each, were tasks relying on integration across social service systems. Conclusions: Tasks that involved integrating services across institutions with different missions were consistently downplayed in training. Yet the importance of such tasks is underscored by the assessments of the psychiatric leaders who were interviewed, the high valuation placed on this type of integration by a substantial subset of training directors, and the extent of mental illness among populations who are institutionalized in nonpsychiatric settings.