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BMC Med Educ. 2005 Jul 18;5:27.

What motivates senior clinicians to teach medical students?

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Medical School, Building 42A, ANU, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.



This study was designed to assess the motivations of senior medical clinicians to teach medical students. This understanding could improve the recruitment and retention of important clinical teachers.


The study group was 101 senior medical clinicians registered on a teaching list for a medical school teaching hospital (The Canberra Hospital, ACT, Australia). Their motivations to teach medical students were assessed applying Q methodology.


Of the 75 participants, 18 (24%) were female and 57 (76%) were male. The age distribution was as follows: 30-40 years = 16 participants (21.3%), 41-55 years = 46 participants (61.3%) and > 55 years = 13 participants (17.3%). Most participants (n = 48, 64%) were staff specialists and 27 (36%) were visiting medical officers. Half of the participants were internists (n = 39, 52%), 12 (16%) were surgeons, and 24 (32%) were other sub-specialists. Of the 26 senior clinicians that did not participate, two were women; 15 were visiting medical officers and 11 were staff specialists; 16 were internists, 9 were surgeons and there was one other sub-specialist. The majority of these non-participating clinicians fell in the 41-55 year age group. The participating clinicians were moderately homogenous in their responses. Factor analysis produced 4 factors: one summarising positive motivations for teaching and three capturing impediments for teaching. The main factors influencing motivation to teach medical students were intrinsic issues such as altruism, intellectual satisfaction, personal skills and truth seeking. The reasons for not teaching included no strong involvement in course design, a heavy clinical load or feeling it was a waste of time.


This study provides some insights into factors that may be utilised in the design of teaching programs that meet teacher motivations and ultimately enhance the effectiveness of the medical teaching workforce.

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