A Qualitative Study of Preclinical Medical Students Randomized to Patient-Partnered vs Traditional Clinical Experiences

J Patient Cent Res Rev. 2022 Oct 18;9(4):290-297. doi: 10.17294/2330-0698.1930. eCollection 2022 Fall.


Purpose: Longitudinal patient-partnered experiences may promote medical student empathy, but evaluation of such programs is limited. The aim of this study was to compare areas of learning among first-year medical students randomized to a patient-centered track (PCT) or traditional track (TT) longitudinal clinical experience.

Methods: PCT students (n=24) were paired with 2 patients and a physician to participate in their patients' care across multiple settings. TT students (n=56) were paired with a physician preceptor and participated in caring for a variety of patients in a single setting. This qualitative study used a phenomenological approach to template analysis, examining and comparing student reflective essays for areas of learning.

Results: Three domains of learning emerged: 1) Focus of learning (biomedical, patient-centered); 2) Roles and relationships (clinical skills, relationship-building, teaching from preceptor and patients); and 3) Context of care (health systems science, interprofessional care). PCT students described patient-centered learning, relationship-building, and patients' role as teachers. In contrast, TT students emphasized biomedical learning, clinical skills development, and teaching from physician preceptors.

Conclusions: Longitudinal patient-partnered clinical experiences provide rich opportunities for preclinical students to cultivate empathy and develop patient-centered values.

Keywords: empathy; longitudinal clinical experience; medical education; patient-centered learning; training.