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Fam Pract. 2011 Aug;28(4):437-43. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmr003. Epub 2011 Mar 10.

'These reforms killed me': doctors' perceptions of family medicine during the transition from communism to capitalism.

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Family Doctor Department, Medical College in Bydgoszcz, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, Poland.



The establishment of family medicine (FM) in Poland following political reform.


To describe family doctors' (FD) experiences during the introduction of FM.


A qualitative study of 25 FDs in Poland, using thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews. Open-structured narrative-based interviews with five FDs were then used to deepen understanding of the major emergent themes. Fifteen of 25 had a different initial specialization to FM; 10 of 25 overseas work experience.


Many doctors were driven by personal circumstances to engage with this new discipline, which provided a better fit with their life circumstances and a chance to escape from hierarchical structures characterizing the old regime. Personal experience of role models helped embrace FM, whereas adherence to ingrained biomedical approaches led to difficulty with exposure to common problems and could facilitate burnout. Shifting relationships in the reformed system caused tensions between primary and secondary care. While relationships with patients and specialists were being renegotiated, the concept of an independent FD practice surfaced. We observed that the most serious problems that the doctors encountered were circumstances related to the former health care system, in contrast to any lack of professional skills.


This is a rare qualitative study exploring Polish doctors' perspectives of the health care reform after the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe. This analysis of newly qualified FDs has provided an insight into the authentic experiences, and motivation of grass roots FM pioneers in Poland.

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