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01.12.2014 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2014 Open Access

BMC Family Practice 1/2014

Measuring the ambiguity tolerance of medical students: a cross-sectional study from the first to sixth academic years

Zeitschrift:
BMC Family Practice > Ausgabe 1/2014
Autoren:
Anne Weissenstein, Sandra Ligges, Britta Brouwer, Bernhard Marschall, Hendrik Friederichs
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1471-2296-15-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

HF conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, and helped to draft the manuscript. BB participated in the data acquisition and data analysis. BM participated in the study design and coordination. SL participated in the data analysis and helped draft the manuscript. AW participated in the data analysis, helped with the study coordination, and helped draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Abstract

Background

Tolerance of ambiguity, or the extent to which ambiguous situations are perceived as desirable, is an important component of the attitudes and behaviors of medical students. However, few studies have compared this trait across the years of medical school. General practitioners are considered to have a higher ambiguity tolerance than specialists. We compared ambiguity tolerance between general practitioners and medical students.

Methods

We designed a cross-sectional study to evaluate the ambiguity tolerance of 622 medical students in the first to sixth academic years. We compared this with the ambiguity tolerance of 30 general practitioners. We used the inventory for measuring ambiguity tolerance (IMA) developed by Reis (1997), which includes three measures of ambiguity tolerance: openness to new experiences, social conflicts, and perception of insoluble problems.

Results

We obtained a total of 564 complete data sets (return rate 90.1%) from medical students and 29 questionnaires (return rate 96.7%) from general practitioners. In relation to the reference groups defined by Reis (1997), medical students had poor ambiguity tolerance on all three scales. No differences were found between those in the first and the sixth academic years, although we did observe gender-specific differences in ambiguity tolerance. We found no differences in ambiguity tolerance between general practitioners and medical students.

Conclusions

The ambiguity tolerance of the students that we assessed was below average, and appeared to be stable throughout the course of their studies. In contrast to our expectations, the general practitioners did not have a higher level of ambiguity tolerance than the students did.
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