Background: Previous studies documented the importance of family medicine clerkships to medical student education and to the potential costs of precepting students borne by community physicians. But what are the physicians' views of their experience, their perceived needs for teaching, and sources of satisfaction from the preceptor role?
Objectives: To explore preceptors' views of a required, third-year family medicine clerkship, focusing on satisfaction with the teaching experience, effect of having students in the practice, and concerns about continuing as a preceptor.
Methods: Preceptors from 38 private practices were asked to participate in a 15-minute telephone survey, using a semistructured interview format.
Results: Thirty-five physicians (92%) agreed to participate and 33 of the 35 primary preceptors were interviewed. Of those interviewed, 29 (88%) indicated a positive teaching experience, and 31 (94%) desired to continue precepting. Intangible rewards (eg, love of teaching or "giving back" to the specialty of family medicine) far out-weighed tangible rewards (eg, dinners or letters of appreciation) with regard to their desire to precept. Continued satisfaction with precepting seemed to be affected by loss of revenue to the practice, longer work hours, ability to effectively manage time and patient load, and need for additional educational resources and equipment.
Conclusions: Intrinsic rewards seem to be a key factor in the physicians' decision to precept. Moreover, to reinforce the preceptor's continued desire to precept, faculty development, provision of educational tools and resources, and remuneration may be necessary. Preceptors should be asked routinely about their needs, and special programs of support should be offered.