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Fam Med. 2006 Mar;38(3):177-84.

Exploring physician and staff perceptions of the learning environment in ambulatory residency clinics.

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Department of Family Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.



Investigations of teaching quality in ambulatory clinics have generally focused on faculty and medical student perspectives. We investigated the association of learning and organizational environment variables with faculty, resident, and nursing staff perceptions of quality of teaching and with a measure of resident learning in ambulatory residency clinics.


Annually over 5 years (1998-2002), we distributed learning and organizational environment surveys to faculty, residents, and staff in three ambulatory clinics of the Wayne State University Department of Family Medicine. We assessed internal reliability of the surveys' 11 scales and then compared responses of employee groups across sites. We then conducted a multiple regression analysis to determine the association of learning and organizational environment variables with faculty, resident, and staff perceptions of quality of teaching. We also compared the mean change in residents' In-training Examination (ITE) scores at our clinic teaching sites over the years of the study.


Nine of 11 survey scales demonstrated acceptable internal reliability. Staff views were significantly lower than residents' views on all scales and were significantly lower than faculty's on all but one scale. Opinions about availability of learning opportunities for residents explained the most variance (35.2%) in the overall assessment of teaching quality. The addition of job satisfaction brought the explained variance up to 46.4%. The mean change in ITE scores was higher for residents at the site with higher learning and organizational environment assessment scores but not significantly so.


Nine learning and organizational environment scales were found internally reliable and useful to measure faculty, resident, and staff perspectives on ambulatory teaching sites. Two areas of focus for improvement were found. First, learning opportunities should be structured so that residents are oriented to the ambulatory clinic, have their knowledge assessed regularly, are helped to meet individual goals, are given appropriate levels of responsibility, and see an adequate number, mix, and continuity of patients. Second, prioritizing efforts to improve job satisfaction for all employees is important because of the association between job satisfaction and employee perceptions of quality of teaching. We recommend that research into the educational climate in ambulatory clinics include perspectives of the full range of clinic personnel who can contribute to resident learning.

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