What do Attending Physicians Contribute in a House Officer-Based Ambulatory Continuity Clinic?


Address correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr. Cyran: Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital, 1835 Franklin Street, Denver, CO 80218 (e-mail: cyrane@exempla.org).


OBJECTIVE: To study the educational contributions of attending physicians in an internal medicine house staff ambulatory clinic.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional, self-administered survey.

SETTING: University-affiliated general internal medicine practice.

PATIENTS/PARTICIPANTS: Internal medicine residents and attendings.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Attending and resident perceptions of whether attendings made contributions to teaching points, diagnosis (DX), therapy (RX), and health care maintenance (HCM) were assessed in 428 patient encounters. Resident assessments significantly exceeded attending self-assessments of contributions to teaching points (82% vs 74%, P=.001), DX (44% vs 34%, P=.001), RX (61% vs 55%, P=.02), and HCM (19% vs 15%, P=.04). Both residents and attendings perceived that contributions declined progressively with increasing resident year (P<.05). Primary care and categorical residents assessed attending contributions comparably. However, attendings perceived contributing more to RX and HCM for categorical residents than primary care (P<.05). Male and female residents assessed attending contributions comparably. However, attendings perceived contributing generally more to DX in male residents than female (P=.003). In 8% of encounters, either residents or attendings felt that patient evaluation by the attending was needed. In these encounters with personal patient evaluation by attendings, both residents and attendings felt that attendings made more contributions to DX (P=.001) and teaching points than in other encounters.

CONCLUSIONS: Attending physicians consistently underestimate their perceived contributions to house officer ambulatory teaching. Their personal patient evaluation increases assistance with DX and teaching points. Given perceived declining contributions by training year, attendings may need to identify other teaching strategies for interactions with senior residents.