Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

The characteristics of a good clinical teacher as perceived by resident physicians in Japan: a qualitative study

Makoto Kikukawa1*, Hiromi Nabeta2, Maiko Ono3, Sei Emura4, Yasutomo Oda5, Shunzo Koizumi6 and Takanobu Sakemi5

Author Affiliations

1 Kyushu University, Japan Department of Medical Education, Kyushu University, 3-1-1 Maidashi Higashi-ku, Fukuoka 812-8285, Japan

2 Department of Neuropsychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Saga University, Saga, Japan

3 Karatsu Municipal Hospital Kitahata, Saga, Japan

4 Center for Graduate Medical Education Development and Research, Saga University Hospital, Saga, Japan

5 Center for Comprehensive Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Saga University, Saga, Japan

6 Shichijo Clinic, Kyoto, Japan

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:100  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-100

Published: 25 July 2013



It is not known whether the characteristics of a good clinical teacher as perceived by resident physicians are the same in Western countries as in non-Western countries including Japan. The objective of this study was to identify the characteristics of a good clinical teacher as perceived by resident physicians in Japan, a non-Western country, and to compare the results with those obtained in Western countries.


Data for this qualitative research were collected using semi-structured focus group interviews. Focus group transcripts were independently analyzed and coded by three authors. Residents were recruited by maximum variation sampling until thematic saturation was achieved.


Twenty-three residents participated in five focus group interviews regarding the perceived characteristics of a good clinical teacher in Japan. The 197 descriptions of characteristics that were identified were grouped into 30 themes. The most commonly identified theme was “provided sufficient support”, followed by “presented residents with chances to think”, “provided feedback”, and “provided specific indications of areas needing improvement”. Using Sutkin’s main categories (teacher, physician, and human characteristics), 24 of the 30 themes were categorized as teacher characteristics, 6 as physician characteristics, and none as human characteristics.


“Medical knowledge” of teachers was not identified as a concern of residents, and “clinical competence of teachers” was not emphasized, whereas these were the two most commonly recorded themes in Sutkin’s study. Our results suggest that Japanese and Western resident physicians place emphasis on different characteristics of their teachers. We speculate that such perceptions are influenced by educational systems, educational settings, and culture. Globalization of medical education is important, but it is also important to consider differences in educational systems, local settings, and culture when evaluating clinical teachers.

Resident; Clinical teacher; Culture; Qualitative study; Japan