A Time-Motion Study of the Activities of Attending Physicians in an Internal Medicine and Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Resident Continuity Clinic

Acad Med. 2000 Nov;75(11):1138-43. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200011000-00023.


Purpose: To describe the activities of attending physicians in a residency-based continuity clinic and to examine factors that affect their teaching of, supervision of, and interaction with residents.

Method: Six full-time board-certified faculty members (three internal medicine, three internal medicine-pediatrics) in an urban residency program participated in a descriptive observational time-motion study. The attending faculty were directly observed by "shadow" technique for 30 half-day sessions from April 1994 through September 1994. Each activity was measured by a trained research assistant using a digital stopwatch. The observed activities were assigned to one of 16 subcategories.

Results: 6,389 minutes of activities were observed. Activities were distributed among four general categories: direct contact with residents (43.1%), clinic operations (33.7%), personal and/or professional activities (18.0%), and miscellaneous time (5.2%). Attending physicians spent the most time in direct contact with residents when the patient-to-attending ratio was 10-14:1.

Discussion: The activities of the clinic's attending physicians were quite varied. Less than half of their time in the clinic was spent in contact with residents. This contact time may be significantly increased by changes to clinic policies, such as optimizing the patient-to-faculty ratio and increasing administrative support for the clinic. These findings can be used as a reference point for studies of attending physicians' activities since the federally mandated rules changes regarding their responsibilities for supervising residents.

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Female
  • Health Facilities
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine* / education
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Male
  • Medical Staff*
  • Pediatrics* / education
  • Physicians*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Teaching / methods
  • Time and Motion Studies*