• Vol. 39 No. 7, 555–564
  • 15 July 2010

Acceptability of Medical Students by Patients from Private and Public Family Practices and Specialist Outpatient Clinics



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Introduction: Previous studies on patient acceptance of medical student teaching were from Western populations and in one setting only. However, there has been no prospective study comparing patient acceptability before and after an actual experience. We studied patient acceptability of medical student teaching in private and public family practices and public hospital specialist outpatient clinics in Singapore, and before and after an actual medical student teaching consultation.

Materials and Methods: We conducted an anonymous cross-sectional survey from March through October 2007 of Singaporean or permanent resident patients attending 76 teaching private family practices, 9 teaching public family practices and 8 specialty clinics in a teaching public hospital. We used pre-consultation cross-sectional patient surveys in all three settings. For private family practice setting only, post-consultation patient survey was conducted after an actual experience with medical student presence.

Results: Out of 5123 patients, 4142 participated in the cross-sectional survey (80.9%) and 1235 of 1519 patients in the prospective cohort study (81.3%). Eighty percent were comfortable with medical students present, 79% being interviewed and 60% being examined. Regarding being examined by medical students, parents of children were least comfortable while patients between 41 to 60 years were most comfortable (adjusted OR = 1.99 [1.55-2.57]). Females were less comfortable with medical student teaching than males. Chinese patients were the least comfortable about being interviewed or examined by medical students among the ethnic groups. Indians were most comfortable with being interviewed by medical students (adjusted OR = 1.38 [1.02-1.86]) but Malays were the most comfortable being examined by them (adjusted OR = 1.32 [1.07-1.62]). Family practice patients were more receptive to medical student teaching than the hospital’s specialist outpatients. Common barriers to patient acceptance were lack of assurance of patient privacy, dignity and confidentiality. Actual exposure to medical student teaching did not change levels of patient acceptance.

Conclusions: Compared to similar studies from Western countries, Asian patients appear to be less receptive to medical student teaching than Western patients. Family practice settings offer medical students a more receptive learning environment.

In recent decades, medical advances and economic pressures have shifted medical student training from hospital inpatient to ambulatory settings such as hospital outpatient and primary care clinics. Most studies have found that patients are agreeable to seeing medical students and value the opportunity to interact with them.

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