Medical Students' Perceptions of the Elements of Effective Inpatient Teaching by Attending Physicians and Housestaff


  • The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Address correspondence and requests for reprint to Dr. Elnicki: Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, UPMC Shadyside, 5230 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15232 (e-mail:


Background: Most studies of effective inpatient teaching have focused on teaching by attending physicians.

Objective: To identify and compare medical students' perceptions of behaviors associated with teaching effectiveness of attending physicians and housestaff (residents and interns).

Design AND Participants: Third-year students who spent 4 weeks on a general internal medicine inpatient service during academic year 2003–2004 completed surveys using a 5-point Likert-type scale. Students evaluated numerous teaching behaviors of attendings and housestaff and then evaluated their overall teaching effectiveness.

Measurements: Each behavior was correlated with the perceived teaching effectiveness in univariate and regression analyses.

Results: Seventy-two students were taught by 23 attendings and 73 housestaff. Of 144 possible teaching evaluations, they completed 142 (98.6%) for attendings and 128 (88.9%) for housestaff. The mean rating for perceived teaching effectiveness was 4.48 (SD 0.82) for attendings and 4.39 (SD 0.80) for housestaff. For attending physicians, teaching effectiveness correlated most strongly with enthusiasm for teaching (R2=63.6%) but was also associated with inspiring confidence in knowledge and skills, providing feedback, and encouraging students to accept increasing responsibility. Housestaff teaching effectiveness correlated most strongly with providing a role model (R2=61.8%) but was also associated with being available to students, performing effective patient education, inspiring confidence in knowledge and skills, and showing enthusiasm for teaching. Regression models explained 79.7% and 73.6% of the variance in evaluations of attendings and housestaff, respectively.

Conclusions: Students' perceptions of effective teaching behaviors differ for attending physicians and housestaff, possibly reflecting differences in teaching roles or methods.