What makes a good clinical teacher in medicine? A review of the literature

Acad Med. 2008 May;83(5):452-66. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31816bee61.


Purpose: The authors perform a review of the literature pertinent to the question, "What makes a good clinical teacher in medicine?"

Method: After framing the question, based on discussions of their own experiences with clinical teachers, the authors performed a search of the literature pertinent to the question, "What are the qualities of a good clinical teacher in medicine?" Between July and December, 2006, they reviewed titles from Index Medicus (1909-1966), PubMed (1966 to the present), PubMed Related Articles, and referenced articles. The initial selections were chosen by scanning pre-1966 Index Medicus title lists and post-1966 abstracts. Chosen articles were then read in their entirety, and those which described specific characteristics of clinical teachers were selected for inclusion. Qualitative analysis was used to identify themes.

Results: From 4,914 titles, 68 articles were selected for analysis-26 published before 1966, and 42 published after 1966. Four hundred eighty descriptors were identified and grouped into 49 themes, which were clustered into three main categories: physician, teacher, and human characteristics. Echoing the authors' intuitive descriptions, noncognitive characteristics dominated the descriptions and themes.

Conclusions: Excellent clinical teaching, although multifactorial, transcends ordinary teaching and is characterized by inspiring, supporting, actively involving, and communicating with students. Faculty development programs and future research should focus on development of the noncognitive attributes of clinical teachers, as well as the knowledge and skills associated with effective teaching.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical*
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Professional Competence*
  • Teaching*
  • United States