Objective: To study patient attitudes toward medical students in a faculty academic general internal medicine practice.
Setting: An academic general internal medicine ambulatory practice site at a university hospital.
Patients: Random selection of 199 patients attending the practice; 194 patients completed the survey.
Main results: Approximately half (55.8%) of the patients had no preference regarding medical student participation, a third preferred to see the attending physician alone, and 10% preferred to see the student with the physician. Seventy-six percent were not reluctant to disclose "personal" information with the medical student, whereas 24% felt uncomfortable. Almost half (46.5%) of the patients enjoyed their encounters with medical students, 43% were neutral, and 10.3% disliked their encounters. Half of the patients desired some time alone with the attending physician. Thirty-seven percent of the patients reported that they had benefited from their interactions with the medical students. Patients who were men and older appeared to be more receptive of medical students. There was also a trend for patients who had had previous visits involving medical students to be more accepting of their participation.
Conclusions: The majority of the patients in the study were receptive to medical student participation in this ambulatory setting. Patients should be adequately prepared for medical student involvement and each patient should have an opportunity to spend time alone with the attending physician. A sizable minority (a third) of patients do not desire medical student participation.