Background: Medical students on Emergency Medicine (EM) clerkships are traditionally assigned work shifts in a manner that provides a mix of daytime, evening, overnight, and weekend shifts. Whether or not this shift allocation model provides the optimal educational experience remains unclear.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare the impact of two different shift allocation models on the student's clerkship experience. Specifically, we set out to compare the traditional shift allocation model to a novel model designed to maximize teacher-learner continuity.
Methods: This was a prospective, crossover, cohort study of medical students participating in an EM clerkship at one institution from January 1 through April 31, 2010. All students completed 2 weeks of shifts under the "traditional shift model" and 2 weeks of shifts under the "continuity-based shift model." In the latter, the guiding principle of student shift allocation was continuity between teacher and learner. Students completed coded surveys after each 2-week block that were later matched and analyzed using 2-way ANOVAs with 1 repeated measure. In addition, all students participated in a semistructured group interview at the completion of both blocks. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using qualitative methods. Themes and subthemes that emerged were assessed for frequency of occurrence.
Results: Eighteen medical students consented to participate. Students rated the continuity-based shift model higher on all 10 survey items. However, only the items that asked specifically about "faculty"-faculty teaching, faculty interaction, frequency and quality of faculty feedback-were rated significantly higher when students worked under the continuity-based shift model. Qualitative analysis of group interviews revealed 6 major themes and 16 subthemes. Students described feedback (N = 16/117) and the teacher-learner relationship (N = 21/117) as superior under the continuity-based shift model.
Conclusions: Changes in shift allocation affects student experience in an EM clerkship. A shift allocation model that maximizes the continuity between teacher and learner is perceived by students to improve feedback and the teacher-learner relationship.