PURPOSE: To quantify the cost of teaching a student in a family physician's office in terms of the time a preceptor spends teaching or of the possible decrease in a preceptor's productivity, as reflected in a smaller number of patients seen per day. METHOD: During July and August 1995 data were collected from 26 different preceptor-student pairs (the third-year students were attending the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine). A single research assistant was used to time the actions of the students and the preceptors and to record every activity (under one of four categories) of the preceptors that related to the students. Also recorded were the numbers of patients seen by the preceptor with and without the student and, if the preceptor was in a partnership or group practice, the number of patients seen by the preceptor's partner on the same day in the same office. RESULTS: For ten preceptors with partners, there was no significant difference between the number of patients seen by the preceptor and the number seen by a non-teaching partner. The preceptors averaged 0.17 hours listening to the students' presentations of patients, 0.51 hours waiting for the students to finish seeing a patient, 2.55 hours seeing patients with the students in the examination room, and 0.56 hours giving mini-lectures or testing the students' knowledge, for a total of 3.79 hours per day in student-related activities. CONCLUSION: Much of the 3.79 hours the preceptors spent with the students was spent seeing patients who would have been seen even if the preceptors had not been teaching. The best estimate of "extra" time spent by the preceptors would be the time spent lecturing or testing plus the time spent listening to presentations plus an estimated 20% of the time spent seeing patients with the students, a total of 1.23 hours. At $60 per hour, the cost of extra preceptor time would be $73.80 per day, or $1,254.60 per student for a typical four-week rotation.
(C) 1997 Association of American Medical Colleges