Attending physicians at teaching hospitals balance mentoring, patient duties well, study finds

Anuja Vaidya (Twitter) - Print  | 

Attending physicians at teaching hospitals — where they are also expected to supervise residents — do not end up spending less time with patients, a study published in AEM Education and Training found.

The study also found that physicians who spend ample time with their patients at teaching hospitals aren't shirking their resident mentoring responsibilities.

Researches conducted the study in the emergency room of a teaching hospital and the ER of a nonteaching hospital in the Chicago area in 2017. They followed 25 senior ER physicians, each of whom split their time between the teaching and nonteaching hospitals. Researchers analyzed 400 hours of physician work time and recorded more than 35,000 tasks.

They found that attending physicians spent about one-third of their time in patients' rooms at both the teaching and nonteaching hospitals. The rates of discharge were also the similar at both hospitals, with physicians discharging about seven patients per four-hour observation period.

The study also shows that attending physicians spent about nine minutes per hour on supervising and mentoring residents.

The presence of residents at the teaching hospital had some additional benefits. When residents were present, attending physicians spent more time interacting with patients. The average duration of an attending physician's interaction with a patient was 15 percent longer in the teaching hospital than the nonteaching hospital.

Additionally, attending physicians in the teaching hospital spent less time on indirect patient care tasks, such as calling other providers or ordering tests, than physicians at nonteaching hospitals, suggesting they offloaded those tasks to residents.

Researchers did note some limitations of the study, however, including the fact that the study included only two hospitals. Also, the residents at the two hospitals were typically third-or fourth-year residents, who likely require less supervision from attending physicians.

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