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Health Brief: International preceptors welcome medical students, residents :

February 3, 2016

Most clinical preceptors gave high marks to medical students and residents doing short-term rotations at their clinics in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent survey. However, the 32 respondents also identified areas for improvement.

About one-fifth of U.S. pediatric residents pursue global health electives typically lasting up to six weeks, according to an AAP survey. Studies have highlighted the benefits of such experiences to learners such as greater appreciation for the importance of communication between people of different cultures, better knowledge of tropical diseases and improved physical exam skills. Yet, little has been published on the benefits and burdens for host institutions.

The authors of this study surveyed clinical preceptors at four sites providing pediatric HIV care. Questions addressed the professionalism, medical knowledge and competency of medical students and residents as well as the training they received prior to their arrival.

Surveys were sent to 47 preceptors, and 68% responded. Results showed:

  • 97% were satisfied in their role hosting learners;
  • 83% reported that learners improved the clinic’s professional image;
  • 77% said learners helped educate their staff; and
  • 45% said they were less efficient in clinical care tasks while precepting learners.

The survey also included open-ended questions, the answers to which revealed ways in which such relationships could be more beneficial to host institutions. For example, some preceptors said learners lacked knowledge of their health system and cultural practices.

In addition, some noted that residents seemed to be more interested in travel than clinical care and sometimes were disrespectful to clinical staff, challenged medical decisions and openly criticized their host country.

Preceptors also indicated that they prefer rotations that last at least four weeks and that learners receive training on medical, ethical and cultural issues prior to departure.

The authors concluded that they hope their findings prompt institutions that send residents and medical students abroad to ensure the experiences are mutually beneficial.

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