Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 25, Issue 8, pp 786–791

A Qualitative Study of the Meaning of Physical Examination Teaching for Patients

  • Katherine C. Chretien
  • Ellen F. Goldman
  • Katherine E. Craven
  • Charles J. Faselis
Original Research

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-010-1325-x

Cite this article as:
Chretien, K.C., Goldman, E.F., Craven, K.E. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2010) 25: 786. doi:10.1007/s11606-010-1325-x



Physical examination teaching using actual patients is an important part of medical training. The patient experience undergoing this type of teaching is not well-understood.


To understand the meaning of physical examination teaching for patients.


Phenomenological qualitative study using semi-structured interviews.


Patients who underwent a physical examination-based teaching session at an urban Veterans Affairs Medical Center.


A purposive sampling strategy was used to include a diversity of patient teaching experiences. Multiple interviewers triangulated data collection. Interviews continued until new themes were no longer heard (total of 12 interviews). Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Coding was performed by two investigators and peer-checked. Themes were identified and meanings extracted from themes.


Seven themes emerged from the data: positive impression of students; participation considered part of the program; expect students to do their job: hands-on learning; interaction with students is positive; some aspects of encounter unexpected; range of benefits to participation; improve convenience and interaction. Physical examination teaching had four possible meanings for patients: Tolerance, Helping, Social, and Learning. We found it possible for a patient to move from one meaning to another, based on the teaching session experience.


Physical examination teaching can benefit patients. Patients have the potential to gain more value from the experience based on the group interaction.


physician–patient relationsphysical examinationundergraduate medical educationbedside teaching

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine C. Chretien
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ellen F. Goldman
    • 3
  • Katherine E. Craven
    • 2
  • Charles J. Faselis
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Washington DC VA Medical CenterWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.George Washington University School of Medicine and Health SciencesWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human DevelopmentWashingtonUSA