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Open Access Research article

Consumers as tutors – legitimate teachers?

Cathy Owen123* and Rebecca E Reay3

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Education Unit, Medical School Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

2 Frank Fenner Blg 42, Canberra ACT 0200 Australia

3 Academic Unit of Psychological Medicine, Blg 15, Level 2 The Canberra Hospital, WODEN ACT 2605 Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2004, 4:14  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-14

Published: 20 September 2004

Abstract

Background

The aim of this study was to research the feasibility of training mental health consumers as tutors for 4th year medical students in psychiatry.

Methods

A partnership between a consumer network and an academic unit in Psychological Medicine was formed to jointly develop a training package for consumer tutors and a curriculum in interviewing skills for medical students. Student attitudes to mental health consumers were measured pre and post the program. All tutorial evaluation data was analysed using univariate statistics. Both tutors and students evaluated the teaching program using a 4 point rating scale. The mean scores for teaching and content for both students and tutors were compared using an independent samples t-test.

Results

Consumer tutors were successfully trained and accredited as tutors and able to sustain delivery of tutorials over a 4 year period. The study found that whilst the medical students started with positive attitudes towards consumers prior to the program, there was a general trend towards improved attitude across all measures. Other outcomes for tutors and students (both positive and negative) are described.

Conclusions

Consumer tutors along with professional tutors have a place in the education of medical students, are an untapped resource and deliver largely positive outcomes for students and themselves. Further possible developments are described.