Rewards, costs and challenges: the general practitioner's experience of teaching medical students

Med Educ. 2011 Jul;45(7):722-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.03930.x.


Context: Medical student attachments in general practices play an important role in undergraduate medical education internationally. The recruitment by universities of new teaching practices or an increase in the teaching commitment of existing practices will be necessary to address rising medical student numbers. General practitioners (GPs) are likely to weigh the perceived rewards of practice-based teaching against the perceived costs and challenges in deciding whether to accept a student placement and how to teach. These aspects of the 'lived experience' of the GP-teacher have not been adequately investigated.

Objectives: This study aims to enhance understanding of the GP clinical teacher experience in order to inform strategies for the recruitment, retention, training and support of teaching general practices.

Methods: Sixty GP clinical teachers in Brisbane-based urban teaching general practices were interviewed individually face-to-face by the principal investigator, using a semi-structured interview plan. Representativeness was ensured through quota sampling. The interview data were analysed thematically by two of the investigators independently, following member checking of interview transcripts.

Results: The results demonstrate a number of key inter-related perceived rewards, costs and challenges of teaching, including intellectual stimulation, cognitive fatigue and student characteristics.

Conclusions: The findings extend reports in the previous literature by offering a richer description of current GP-teacher experience. Participants identified teaching rewards in a manner largely consistent with previous research, with the exception of enhanced practice morale and teamwork. Findings confirm that reduced productivity and increased time pressures remain key perceived negative impacts of teaching, but also reveal a number of other important costs and challenges. They emphasise the diversity of GP experience and practice cultures, and the need for teaching to enhance both GP and patient perceptions of consultation quality without increasing the load on the GP-teacher. Recruitment and retention strategies should promote the rewards of teaching, and teacher training should respond to the costs and challenges of practice-based teaching, and facilitate the growth of GPs in their role as clinical educators.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Humans
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Queensland
  • Reward
  • Teaching / organization & administration*
  • Workload