Trainee nurses, midwives, physiotherapists and pharmacists will study alongside medical students following reforms that will progressively introduce a common first year of studies for all health sector trainees.
Education minister Jack Lang and health minister Bernard Kouchner have appointed a committee of academics and medical specialists to propose measures to transform year one of the "first cycle" of medical studies into the "first year of health studies".
Headed by Bernard Belloc, first vice-president of the Conference des Presidents d'Universite, the committee will identify the different courses leading to qualifications in the various health professions to decide which studies they can share; define common-course content, especially in the fields of public health and health economics, and options for each course, while clarifying what each profession entails; and devise a non-hierarchical examination system covering the various courses.
Discussions about providing common first-year studies, involving the ministries, teachers, students and representatives of the relevant health professions, began two years ago.
Mr Lang said the old system for training medical doctors attracted excellent students but subjected them to quotas. Too many were eliminated, and their knowledge was not taken into account if they wanted to switch to other university studies. Mr Lang said it was a "useless waste" that had to be remedied.
A first year of cramming in isolation gave medical students the opposite of what was expected of them, said Mr Lang. He said they needed "solid human qualities and ability to work in teams" as well as professional knowledge.
He said they could not fully carry out efficient care and prevention if they did not collaborate with other health professionals.
The shared studies will include biology and human and social sciences, which will "permit each student to choose his or her own professional project according to their preferences and their results, so each will be able to follow the particular options that lead to the course of studies to become a dentist, physiotherapist, pharmacist, midwife, speech therapist and so on," Mr Lang said.
Each course will have equal status in the exam system, and links between courses will enable students to switch studies easily. Qualifications gained will also fit into the European credit transfer system that France is proposing to introduce.