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Cross-year peer tutoring on internal medicine wards: results of a qualitative focus group analysis

Authors Krautter M, Andreesen S, Köhl-Hackert N, Hoffmann K, Herzog W, Nikendei C

Received 4 April 2014

Accepted for publication 19 May 2014

Published 23 September 2014 Volume 2014:5 Pages 323—330

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/AMEP.S65479

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


Markus Krautter,1 Sven Andreesen,2 Nadja Köhl-Hackert,2 Katja Hoffmann,3 Wolfgang Herzog,2 Christoph Nikendei2

1Department of Nephrology, University of Heidelberg, 2Department of General Internal Medicine and Psychosomatics, University of Heidelberg Medical Hospital, 3Department of General Practice and Health Services Research, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany


Background: Peer-assisted learning (PAL) has become a well-accepted teaching method within medical education. However, descriptions of on-ward PAL programs are rare. A focus group analysis of a newly established PAL program on an internal medicine ward was conducted to provide insights into PAL teaching from a student perspective.
Purpose: To provide insights into students' experiences regarding their on-ward training with and without accompanying PAL tutors.
Methods: A total of N=168 medical students in their sixth semester participated in the investigation (intervention group: N=88; control group: N=80). The intervention group took part in the PAL program, while the control group received standard on-ward training. There were seven focus groups with N=43 participants (intervention group: four focus groups, N=28 participants; control group: three focus groups, N=15 participants). The discussions were analyzed using content analysis.
Results: The intervention group emphasized the role of the tutors as competent and well-trained teachers, most beneficial in supervising clinical skills. Tutors motivate students, help them to integrate into the ward team, and provide a non-fear-based working relationship whereby students' anxiety regarding working on ward decreases. The control group had to rely on autodidactic learning strategies when neither supervising physicians nor final-year students were available.
Conclusion: On-ward PAL programs represent a particularly valuable tool for students' support in training clinical competencies on ward. The tutor–student working alliance acts through its flat hierarchy. Nevertheless, tutors cannot represent an adequate substitute for experienced physicians.

Keywords: peer-assisted learning, cross-year peer tutoring, undergraduate medical education, final year, internal medicine, clinical skills training

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