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A study that would have made Osler pleased
Human Dimensions in Bedside Teaching: Focus Group Discussions of Teachers and Learners. Ramani S et al. Teaching and Learning in Medicine 2013; 25(4): 312-318.
Reviewed by Preetha Krishnamoorthy

What was the study question?
What are teachers' and learners' perspectives on the benefits of, barriers to, and strategies for bedside teaching?

How was the study done?
Teacher participants were recruited from the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and included Chief Residents, Program Directors, skilled bedside teachers and a convenience sample of other teachers. They participated in four focus group discussions in 1998. Learner participants included 4th year students and 1st and 2nd year Internal Medicine residents from BUSM and Boston Medical Center. They participated in six focus group discussions between 2004 and 2005. Focus groups discussions lasted 60-90 minutes and were audiotaped and transcribed. The authors read all transcripts, identified themes, as did a third investigator to ensure interrater reliability.

What were the results?
Teachers and learners raised many common humanistic themes. These included respect for and engagement of the patient, preservation of learner autonomy, the value of role modeling, the importance of admitting one's limitations, the need for observation and feedback of trainees, and the vital role of teaching challenging patient interactions. The overarching theme was that bedside teaching is powerful and rewarding.

What are the implications of these findings?
Both learners and teachers value bedside teaching, and acknowledge that it cannot be replaced by technology-based learning. Bedside teaching is particularly important in the development of humanistic skills and professionalism.

Editors' note: As William Osler said "To study medicine without books is to sail an uncharted sea, while to study medicine only from books is not to go to sea at all." In this age of simulated and standardized patients, this study and these words are important to remember (SLB).

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