Letters to the Editor
To the Editor: We strongly urge all medical schools to employ a variety of medical educators, not just physicians. In the United Kingdom, there has been a move to have members of other health professions contribute to medical education. We note that Riesenberg and colleagues,1 in their excellent and thought-provoking article, refer to this group, as well as those who possess qualifications in education, as nonphysician medical educators. However, we prefer to think of these educators as an eclectic mix of people who have different skills and conceptual models to offer. Grouping individuals into positives (physicians) and negatives (nonphysicians) is rather unhelpful and oversimplified.
We also agree with Shea's2 comment that rather than thinking about educators of many disciplines as “filling roles that do not require a physician's expertise,” such educators can fill roles for which physicians do not have the necessary expertise. For although physicians can be excellent role models for aspiring young doctors, the majority have no background or qualifications in teaching. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that they will always provide the best-quality teaching or guidance to medical students.
Bylund and colleagues3 demonstrated that facilitators from different backgrounds added a variety of different strengths to learning. To us, this finding provides more evidence that members of other health professions, even those without teaching backgrounds, can provide a wealth of experience and knowledge—for example, on research methods, communication skills, and learning theory—that would benefit medical students at every stage of their training.
Andrea Pilkington, MB, ChB
Academic clinical fellow in medical education, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jo Hart, PhD
Director of 2011 programme delivery and development, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom.
Christine Bundy, PhD
Senior lecturer in psychology applied to medicine, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom.
1Riesenberg LA, Little BW, Wright V. Nonphysician medical educators: A literature review and job description resource. Acad Med. 2009;84:1078–1088.
2Shea J. Commentary: The work of nonphysician medical educators: Why we need historical context, conceptual models, training details, and evidence. Acad Med. 2009;84:982–984.
3Bylund C, Brown R, Lubrano di Ciccone B, et al. Assessing facilitator competence in a comprehensive communication skills training programme. Med Educ. 2009;43:342–349.