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The cooperation of patients and their consent to involve medical students in their care is vital to clinical education, but large numbers of students and lack of experience as well as loss of privacy may evoke negative attitudes of patients, which may sometimes adversely affect the clinical teaching environment. This study aimed to explore the attitudes of patients towards medical students at Damascus University hospitals, and to explore the determinants of those attitudes thus discussing possible implications applicable to clinical teaching.
This cross-sectional study was conducted at three teaching hospitals affiliated to the Faculty of Medicine at Damascus University. Four hundred patients were interviewed between March and April 2011 by a trained sociologist using a structured questionnaire.
Of the patients interviewed, 67.8% approved the presence of medical students during the medical consultation and 58.2% of them felt comfortable with the presence of students, especially among patients with better socio-economic characteristics. 81.5% of the patients agreed to be examined by students in the presence of the supervisor, while 40.2% gave agreement even in the absence of the supervisor. Privacy was the most important factor in the patients' reticence towards examination by the students, whilst the relative safety and comfort if a supervisor was available determined patients' agreement.
The study concluded overall positive attitudes to the medical students' involvement in medical education. However, it is essential that students and clinical supervisors understand and adhere to professional and ethical conduct when involving patients in medical education.