Teaching is an important role for all practising psychiatrists. However, many studies have shown that psychiatric trainees are in fact the primary educators of medical students (Kaufman, 1970; Callen & Roberts, 1980; Bing-You & Sproul, 1992). Medical students often work more closely with trainees than consultants during their psychiatry attachment and this allows trainees a unique opportunity to enhance the knowledge and skills of medical students, as well as to influence their values and behaviour through role-modelling and professional socialisation. For psychiatric trainees in particular, working with medical students provides a critical forum for addressing misconceptions and stigma about mental illness (Foreman et al, 2007). This chapter highlights the important role trainees have in teaching undergraduates, the potential benefits for students and trainees, and the unique ways in which trainees can contribute to the teaching of undergraduates.
The role of psychiatric trainees in undergraduate education
The transition from undergraduate medical student to postgraduate psychiatric trainee brings with it a multitude of new responsibilities, including that of teaching. Trainees regularly gain experience of teaching, for example through formal case presentations and journal clubs, departmental inductions and conference presentations. They teach a variety of learners such as peers, other professionals, patients and of course medical students. Trainees must rapidly develop teaching skills when they progress from student to teacher, often without any formal training in how to teach (Bramble, 1991).
Many studies have shown that trainees in all specialties are the main educators of medical students and can spend 20–25% of their time in this role (Kates & Lesser, 1985). Medical students in turn claim that up to a third of their education is derived from trainees alone (Busari et al, 2000). A study by Callen & Roberts (1980) found that the average psychiatric trainee will spend 3.67 hours per week teaching undergraduates and they feel they should spend more time doing so. A survey by Bramble (1991) found that psychiatric trainees spent 13.8% of their time teaching and that they viewed teaching as an important skill. While senior psychiatrists will have overall responsibility for the education of medical students on their placements, the job of teaching, appraising and assessing medical students is often given to trainees (Curran & Bowie, 1998; Vassilas et al, 2003).