Objective: To determine the extent to which current changes in the American health care system might adversely effect the willingness of community physicians to volunteer to teach medical students.
Design: Surveys in the form of 2 mailings were sent to 466 physicians in the Pacific Northwest who volunteer to teach first- and second-year medical students. The physicians were categorized into medical specialty or primary care, urban or rural location, and type of practice.
Participants: A total of 333 physicians completed the surveys on which responses were analyzed.
Results: Respondents noted that clinical and nonclinical workloads had increased (n=211 [63%] and n=276 [83%], respectively) in the past 5 years. One hundred eighty-six respondents (56%) said that they had less time for teaching medical students. Forty-five physicians (14%) indicated that they had discontinued their volunteer teaching activities altogether. During the past 5 years, solo practitioners had the lowest dropout rate (7% [4/57]), and physicians at health maintenance organizations had the highest (23% [7/30]). Primary care physicians were more likely to indicate that they had decreased time for each patient encounter (P=0.006).
Conclusions: Increasing nonclinical workload demands and higher patient loads are a substantial threat to the recruitment and retention of volunteer faculty. In particular, the involvement of urban, HMO, and primary care physicians may decrease disproportionately in the future.