Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Teaching students—whose job is it anyway?

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 13 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:153

Rapid Response:

Docere - to teach

The word doctor derives from the Latin word “docere” meaning "to
teach." I think it is the responsibility of all doctors to pass on their
knowledge and skills for the good of the profession in the future. This
could also be considered as a "duty of care" issue, in that ensuring
tomorrow’s doctors are as well trained and knowledgeable as possible,
helps to ensure the best possible care for tomorrow's patients.

I would like to draw attention to some points of GMC guidance
( that I think are relevant to the discussion of this

1. The responsibility for teaching could be considered to fall under
the, "Duties of a Doctor," as outlined on the GMC website. The
introductory paragraph states, "we as a profession have a duty to maintain
a good standard of practice and care," It is my opinion that, in order to
maintain a good standard of practice and care we must make sure tomorrow's
doctors are equipped to deliver good quality care.

2. The final point in Duties of a Doctor states, " work with
colleagues in the ways that best serve patients' interests." If qualified
doctors can find it in themselves to count medical students as colleagues
then this is another point of GMC guidance which could be taken to imply a
responsibility for teaching on the part of all doctors. After all, well-
trained medical students will become well-trained PRHOs, and this is in
patients' interests.

3. More specifically, in the document, “Good Medical Practice,”
points 15 and 16 state, "You should be willing to contribute to the
education of students or colleagues," and, "If you have responsibilities
for teaching you must develop the skills, attitudes and practices of a
competent teacher. You must also make sure that students and junior
colleagues are properly supervised."

I can understand the dilemma senior doctors are in, being pulled in
many directions by many responsibilities. But as I have argued above, the
future of the profession, and the future of good medical practice depend
on good teaching now and in the future. Surely most consultants can look
far enough back to recall the days when they received teaching as medical
students, and hopefully they can remember the immense value of that

It has to be stated that, medical students aren’t always wanting sit-
down tutorials. We would be satisfied with just a little consideration
for the fact that we are standing around on your ward all day, clinging
desperately to the last threads of our enthusiasm. In most cases all we
want is an explanation of what we’re all looking at on the x-ray, or why
you’re ordering that investigation, or what the relevant anatomy is in the
abdomen you have just opened. These simple things make our day
interesting, maintain our enthusiasm, and motivate us to learn more.

Our learning can also be nurtured by creating a culture of learning
on wards. Make the medical student more a part of the team. Let us take
histories and examine people, and present our findings, impression, and
management plan to an SHO or Registrar. At the same time we can site
venflons, take bloods, fill in x-ray requests, perform ECGs etc, thereby
taking some of the workload off the doctors in return for a few minutes of
discussion on the case in question.

Competing interests:
BMA Medical Students Committee Representative for University of Dundee Medical School; Peer Tutoring Programme Co-ordinator at University of Dundee Medical School

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 January 2005
Steven R Kinnear
Final Year Medical Student
University of Dundee Medical School, DD1