Background: Bedside teaching (BT) is a valuable learning experience for medical students. In 2010, the BT curriculum at the University of Dundee was revised so that clinical specialist doctors facilitated these sessions. The aim of this study was to compare student opinion of BT delivered by specialist and non-specialist doctors.
Methods: A retrospective survey was sent to two medical student year groups who received teaching delivered by either specialist or non-specialist doctors during year 2.
Results: The response rate was 24.5 per cent, of which 49.4 per cent were taught by specialists. Responses indicated that specialist doctors improved communication skills (p = 0.034), were less intimidating (p = 0.01) and gave greater opportunity to ask questions (p = 0.028) than their non-specialist counterparts. Overall, students taught by specialty doctors rated BT as more valuable (p <0.001). A positive correlation was noted between the frequency of patient interaction and the overall value of BT (p <0.0121); however, there was no significant association between the main teaching location and the overall value of BT.
Discussion: Findings indicate that specialist doctors provide students with a better understanding of disease processes. Several students from the specialist group noted that their tutors linked theory to practice. No significant difference was found between the two groups regarding whether teaching was at an appropriate level. Specialist doctors therefore allow a number of improvements over the use of non-specialist doctors for BT.