Do consultations in rural general practice take more time when practitioners are precepting medical students?


Lucie Walters, Flinders Rural Clinical School, 34 Vivienne Avenue, Mount Gambier, South Australia 5290, Australia. Tel: 00 61 8 8726 3999; Fax: 00 61 8 8723 6301; E-mail:


Context  At Flinders University, Adelaide, a subset of students on the 4-year, graduate-entry medical course chooses to spend Year 3 based in rural general practice as part of the Parallel Rural Community Curriculum (PRCC). This programme is equivalent to the tertiary teaching hospital option in terms of student educational outcomes. However, there is concern that this success comes at the cost of lost consulting time for the general practitioners (GPs) who supervise these students.

Objective  This study aimed to quantify the impact of medical students on the consulting time of rural GP supervisors.

Methods  We carried out a prospective cohort study using analysis of videotape recordings. Study subjects were GPs supervising PRCC medical students and working from their own consulting rooms in the clinic setting. Main outcome measures were mean consultation times in sessions with and without medical students.

Results  Using mixed model analysis accounting for clustering of consultations within doctors, and controlling for confounding factors, the estimated marginal mean of regular consultation time was 13 minutes, 27 seconds, which was not significantly shorter than that of precepting consultations (12 minutes, 48 seconds) or parallel consultations (12 minutes, 24 seconds).

Conclusions  Consultation length does not increase when rural GPs supervise medical students using a parallel consulting model.