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OBJECTIVES: To explores the distressful emotional experiences and coping strategies of undergraduate medical students from a public-sector medical college of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.
METHODS: A qualitative narrative inquiry based on cognitive appraisal theory of emotion was conducted from May 2018 to October 2019. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 15 undergraduate students of a public-sector medical college of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan having high risk of psychological distress, as identified through Kessler psychological distress scale. The narratives were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using framework analysis.
RESULTS: Out of 15 students, 8 (53.3%) were females and 7 (46.7%) were males. All students were residing in hostels. Out of 15 students, 4 (26.7%) were from first professional year, 2 (13.3%) were from 4th year and 3 (20.0%) each from 2nd, 3rd & final professional year MBBS class. The participants reported intrapersonal, interpersonal and systemic experiences resulting in feelings of shame, inadequacy, insult, anger and sadness. The severity of distress reduced from first to final professional year. They adopted various coping strategies for example, some kept quiet and/or submitted, while others confronted and/or looked for means to divert attention. Some cried out loud and others prayed and/or used sleeping pills.
CONCLUSION: The undergraduate medical students experience emotionally difficult and diverse intrapersonal, interpersonal and systemic situations. They use emotions-focused, problem-focused and meaning-focused strategies to cope up in such situations. Medical students need to be protected from preventable causes of morbidity and mortality. The institutions should offer student counseling services in the campuses.
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