A is for advocacy: How introducing student advocacy assessment impacts longitudinal integrated clerkship students and clinical supervisors

Med Teach. 2022 Feb;44(2):149-157. doi: 10.1080/0142159X.2021.1967903. Epub 2021 Aug 25.


To improve health, physicians are increasingly called to advocate. Yet medical schools have only recently focused on health advocacy skill-building. Limited work to date addresses assessing medical student advocacy on behalf of patients. We describe how students and clinical supervisors (CS) in two urban longitudinal integrated clerkships (LIC) experience patient advocacy and how introducing a new advocacy assessment impacts them. Using a thematic approach, we analyzed transcripts of focus groups during 2018-2019. Seventeen of 24 (71%) students and 15 of 21 (71%) CS participated in the focus groups. We describe how students perceive their advocacy role as they accompany the patient, amplify their voice, and facilitate connection. The rationale for advocacy assessment includes that it (1) adds a novel dimension to the written and verbal assessment, (2) drives student learning, (3) aligns with the institutional goal to promote equity, and (4) impacts CS teaching and clinical practice. Challenges are the ambiguity of expectations, pressure to 'perform,' and a moral overlay to advocacy assessment. Findings demonstrate how educational alliances between students and CS and longitudinal relationships between LIC students and patients offer a constructive opportunity for advocacy assessment. We describe suggestions to hone and expand the reach of advocacy assessment.

Keywords: Clinical assessment; clinical teaching and learning; medicine; professionalism (learning outcomes); undergraduate (phase of education).

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Clerkship* / methods
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate* / methods
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Schools, Medical
  • Students, Medical*