Purpose: Community physicians are increasingly being recruited to teach medical students and residents, yet there has been little research about how they think of themselves as teachers or what factors contribute to “teacher identity.” Physicians who think of themselves as teachers may be more likely to enjoy teaching, to teach more, and to be recognized by students and other faculty as good teachers. Identifying factors that enhance teacher identity may be helpful for the recruitment and retention of high-quality community faculty.
Method: Thirty-five experienced community preceptors were audiotaped in five structured focus groups in April 2001, answering a series of questions about their teacher identity. Responses were qualitatively analyzed for evidence of themes.
Results: “Feeling intrinsic satisfaction” was the most common theme that emerged from the tapes. Preceptors also identified that “having knowledge and skill about teaching” and “belonging to a group of teacher” enhanced their roles as teachers. “Being a physician means being a teacher,” “feeling a responsibility to teach medicine,” and “sharing clinical expertise” also emerged as important themes. Although a group of participants were interested in “receiving rewards for teaching,” rewards did not need to be financial compensation. For some, genuine recognition for their efforts by the medical school, particularly in the form of faculty development opportunities, constituted reward and recognition for teaching.
Conclusions: Community physicians described a variety of factors that contribute to their identity as teachers. Faculty development programs offer opportunities to strengthen teacher identity and foster relationships between teaching programs and community-based faculty.