Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 607–610

Patients Do not Know the Level of Training of Their Doctors Because Doctors Do not Tell Them

  • Sally A. Santen
  • Tricia S. Rotter
  • Robin R. Hemphill
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-007-0472-1

Cite this article as:
Santen, S.A., Rotter, T.S. & Hemphill, R.R. J GEN INTERN MED (2008) 23: 607. doi:10.1007/s11606-007-0472-1



Although patients should know the level of training of the physician providing their care in teaching hospitals, many do not.


The objective of this study is to determine whether the manner by which physicians introduce themselves to patients is associated with patients’ misperception of the level of training of their physician.


This was an observational study of 100 patient–physician interactions in a teaching emergency department.

Measurements and Main Results

Residents introduced themselves as a doctor 82% of the time but identified themselves as a resident only 7% of the time. While attending physicians introduced themselves as a “doctor” 64% of the time, only 6% identified themselves as the supervising physician. Patients felt it was very important to know their physicians’ level of training, but most did not.


Physicians in our sample were rarely specific about their level of training and role in patient care when introducing themselves to patients. This lack of communication may contribute to patients’ lack of knowledge regarding who is caring for them in a teaching hospital.


physician–patient relationsgraduate medical educationteaching hospitals

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sally A. Santen
    • 1
    • 4
  • Tricia S. Rotter
    • 2
    • 5
  • Robin R. Hemphill
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Higher Education Leadership, Policy OrganizationVanderbilt Peabody CollegeNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Emergency MedicineBrown Medical SchoolProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.Healthcare Solutions GroupVanderbilt University Medical CenterNashvilleUSA
  4. 4.Office for Teaching and Learning in MedicineVanderbilt University School of MedicineNashvilleUSA
  5. 5.Kaiser Sunnyside HospitalClackamasUSA