Exploring patient experiences in the student outpatient clinic - A contribution to learning

Patient Educ Couns. 2021 Mar 24;S0738-3991(21)00195-6. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2021.03.024. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To understand how patients experience participation in student encounters.

Methods: Qualitative semi-structured telephone interviews with ten cardiac surgery patients who had attended voluntary postoperative consultations in a student outpatient clinic. The interview guide included questions about reasons for and experiences of being part of a teaching situation. Interviews were analysed through inductive thematic analysis where pieces of text in each interview were assigned different codes and condensed into themes.

Results: The patients expressed a duality in their reasons for participating in student consultations: (1) a personal need for assurance (safety) and (2) a wish to help students (altruism). Students were perceived as professional and sometimes insecure. Being part of an educational situation was meaningful to the patients because they did not feel objectified. Knowing that there was a backup supervisor made the patients feel safe even though the supervisor was not present during all parts of the consultation.

Conclusions: Patients experienced safety, understood their role in all parts of the consultation, and shared a wish to help students learn.

Practice implications: A sequential consultation model alternating between student- and supervisor-driven supervision can balance student autonomy and patient safety. This knowledge could guide future patient-centred medical education in student clinics.

Keywords: Cardiac patients; Clinical placements; Patient experiences; Patient-centred communication; Qualitative interviews; Student outpatient clinic; Undergraduate medical education.