Open Access Research article

Patient and preceptor attitudes towards teaching medical students in General Practice

Otto Pichlhöfer*, Hans Tönies, Wolfgang Spiegel, Andree Wilhelm-Mitteräcker and Manfred Maier

Author Affiliations

Department of General Practice and Family Medicine, Medical University Vienna, Kinderspitalgasse 15, Vienna, A-1090, Austria

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BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:83  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-83

Published: 7 June 2013



Curricula in most western medical universities include teaching in the primary care setting as core elements. This affects GP-teachers, their patients and their interaction. Therefore, it was the aim of this study to assess the influence of the presence of medical students in the teaching practice on the attitudes of both GPs and patients.


Seventy-four GP-preceptors were invited to answer an online survey. Patients attending consultations with a medical student present completed questionnaires either before the consultation (WR group) or immediately after consultation (AC group).


Fifty- nine preceptors completed the online survey. Physicians showed positive attitudes towards their activities as preceptors: 95% expressed a positive attitude predominantly towards being a role model and to represent the discipline and for 64% remuneration was not important. In 28 practices 508 questionnaires were completed by patients in the WR-group and 346 by the AC-group. Only 12% (WR) and 7.2% (AC) of patients expressed a preference for being seen by the doctor alone. While 16% of doctors rated that confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship is compromised, only 4.1% (WR) and 1.7% (AC) of patients felt so.


The motivation to be a preceptor is primarily driven by personal and professional values and not by economic incentives. Further, patients have even more positive attitudes than the preceptors towards the presence of students during their consultation. Reservations to teaching students in GP-practices are, therefore, unwarranted.

Preceptorship; Teaching; Professional ethics; Physician patient relationship; ‘Doctor-patient relationship’; Medical student