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Academic Medicine:
Research Reports

Whither Bedside Teaching? A Focus‐group Study of Clinical Teachers

Ramani, Subha MD, MPH; Orlander, Jay D. MD, MPH; Strunin, Lee PhD; Barber, Thomas W. MD

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Abstract

Purpose: Previous reports document diminishing time spent on bedside teaching, with a shift towards conference rooms and corridors. This study explored faculty's perceptions of the barriers to and their strategies for increasing and improving bedside teaching.

Method: Four focus groups consisting of (1) chief residents, (2) residency program directors, (3) skilled bedside teachers, and (4) a convenience group of other Department of Medicine faculty from the Boston University School of Medicine's affiliated hospitals were held in May 1998. Each session lasted 60–90 minutes. Sessions were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed using qualitative methods.

Results: The most significant barriers reported were (1) declining bedside teaching skills; (2) the aura of bedside teaching, a belief that bedside teachers should possess an almost unattainable level of diagnostic skill that creates intense performance pressure; (3) that teaching is not valued; and (4) erosion of teaching ethic. Focus-group participants suggested the following strategies for addressing these barriers: improve bedside teaching skills through faculty training in clinical skills and teaching methods; reassure clinical faculty that they possess more than adequate bedside skills to educate trainees; establish a learning climate that allows teachers to admit their limitations; and address the undervaluing of teaching on a department level with adequate recognition and rewards for teaching efforts. Skilled teachers, in particular, stated that a bedside teaching ethic could be reestablished by emphasizing its importance and challenging learners to think clinically.

Conclusions: Bedside teaching is regarded as valuable. Some barriers may be overcome by setting realistic faculty expectations, providing incentives for teaching faculty, and establishing ongoing faculty development programs.

© 2003 Association of American Medical Colleges

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