Joint pain

September 2010


Patient attitudes

Training students in general practice

Volume 39, No.9, September 2010 Pages 676-682

Kevin Sweeney

Parker Magin

Dimity Pond


While evidence from Australian studies is lacking, evidence from overseas suggests that patients are generally willing to have a medical student present during general practitioner consultations. This willingness, however, may be contingent upon factors related to the patient, student or consultation.


Focus groups and two cross sectional surveys of 296 patients attending 16 general practices in New South Wales.


Patients are willing to have students present, but not for all consultations. Patients find it problematic to have students present during consultations that involve worrying test results, emotional upset, internal examinations, and sexual problems. Younger patients are less willing to have a student present. For all patients the presence of a student may alter the dynamics and content of the consultation; patients are less willing to see a student without the GP also being present.


Supervising GPs should be aware of circumstances where patients are less likely to want a student present and of ways in which the presence of a student may alter the consultation.

The number of medical student placements in Australian general practice is likely to increase given the rapid expansion of medical student numbers1 and limitations on educational opportunities in hospital settings.2 For this increase to be sustainable, patient attitudes and expectations must inform the design and conduct of general practice student attachments.

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