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Frequently Asked Questions about Community-Based Teaching

What makes a good teacher?

Individuals with all kinds of personalities and styles can be effective teachers. There is no single "right way" to teach medical students. The key seems to be in clinical skills. Studies consistently identify a pragmatic, enthusiastic, and excellent clinician as the ideal. This means enjoying doing an excellent job in clinical practice and being realistic about the challenges and hard work involved. Our medical students tell us the best teachers are those who show them how to practice medicine in a safe yet challenging environment. We hear a lot from students about great teachers who "think out loud", "involve me in the care", and "always gave me feedback on how I was doing and how to keep getting better".  

What difference does teaching make to a community practice?

Feedback from KU School of Medicine community teachers shows that teaching has positive effects on patients, staff and physicians. This confirms research studies showing that teaching practices are more innovative, have higher standards of practice, enhanced patient satisfaction, and higher staff morale than non-teaching practices. Being a teaching practice validates high standards of patient care that we want our students to copy. Most teachers enjoy the experience and the sense of "giving back" to the profession or "continuing the traditions" of the profession, fulfilling their Hippocratic Oath. Nevertheless, good teaching is hard work.  

How much time does teaching take?

The time and other demands of teaching vary enormously depending on the individual student and teacher. Research studies estimate that a third year student adds on average 45-60 minutes per teaching day but most of this time is in short teaching episodes interspersed with patient care, during time spent traveling or at breaks, and in "shop talk" sessions before and after clinic. Some studies show that residents actually save time for community teachers but the data conflict. Billings and numbers of patients seen were not impacted in the studies of teachers in community practices.  

Why do some students seem so nervous about working in community sites?

Working with community faculty/preceptors is consistently rated among the very best experiences of KUMC-W students. The vast majority of students overcome any initial concerns and learn extraordinarily well in community settings. Nevertheless, as everyone learns in different ways, some students adapt better than others to community teaching. The main concerns we hear about are:      

  • "being exposed"-especially for shy students and those used to hiding in large groups; being the only student can be very uncomfortable    
  • feeling overwhelmed by the pace of a busy office and the variety/severity of the medical problems encountered    
  • "fifth wheel" - student doesn't feel useful and may even feel they are impeding the work of the office    
  • "reorienting"-difficulties knowing what to study or how to relate the clinic experience with didactics and book learning    
  • "my preceptor knows so much!" students may feel inadequate - that they can never reach your standards of practice and relationship with patients.

We continue to work with the students on these issues and hope the modules will provide practical ideas to integrate into your teaching.

Remember if a student appears to be really anxious or you have concerns, please discuss them with the course director early in the process. This enables the course director to correlate your observations with feedback from other sources and arrange for any interventions or adjustments. Neither you nor the student should struggle with uncomfortable situations.

Last modified: Sep 28, 2018
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