Objectives: To evaluate the effects of introducing specialised ward based teachers (WBTs) who had a broad remit to improve third year medical undergraduates' clinical experience.
Design: Quantitative and qualitative methods including interviews with WBTs, participating consultants and SIFT co-ordinator; student questionnaire and evaluations; analysis of Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) scores to ascertain if exposure to WBTs affected OSCE scores.
Setting: Two university teaching hospitals.
Participants: Third year undergraduate medical students from one school of medicine; four WBTs; 25 consultants; SIFT co-ordinator.
Main outcome measures: Student evaluations. Student questionnaires. Student OSCE scores. Interview data.
Results: WBTs had a demonstrable effect on student performance in OSCE examinations. 94% of students either agreed or strongly agreed that WBTs had helped them develop their examination skills and 87% either agreed or strongly agreed that WBTs had helped them develop their history taking skills. Interview data indicated that the consultants and SIFT co-ordinator considered that WBTs made an important contribution to clinical teaching.
Conclusions: This study suggests that specialised WBTs are one way to manage clinical experience and enhance learning of undergraduate medical students. As clinical teaching moves into earlier parts of the undergraduate curriculum and into the community there is potential for this role to be developed.