gms | German Medical Science

Research in Medical Education – Chances and Challenges International Conference

20.05. - 22.05.2009, Heidelberg

The effect of students’ communication on seriously ill patients’ perception of bedside teaching

Meeting Abstract

  • corresponding author presenting/speaker Esther Beltermann - University of Regensburg, Institute for Educational Science, Regensburg, Germany
  • author Isabelle Chaix - Charité - Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Department of Anaesthesiology, Berlin, Germany
  • author Hans Gruber - University of Regensburg, Institute for Educational Science, Regensburg, Germany
  • author presenting/speaker Jan Breckwoldt - Charité - Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Department of Anaesthesiology, Berlin, Germany

Research in Medical Education - Chances and Challenges 2009. Heidelberg, 20.-22.05.2009. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2009. Doc09rmeH2

doi: 10.3205/09rme44, urn:nbn:de:0183-09rme443

Published: May 5, 2009

© 2009 Beltermann et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.


Bedside teaching is an important part of medical education and has been proven to be a proper way to develop crucial skills for students’ future job [1].

In spite of its benefits, critics claim bedside teaching to be negative on patients’ emotional state, especially for seriously ill patients [2]. So far, no study has proven this hypothesis. Thus, focusing on communication processes, this study aimed to examine perception of bedside teaching by seriously ill patients.

We focused on communication processes between students and seriously ill patients. It was expected that both, bad verbal and nonverbal communication manners lead to a negative perception of bedside teaching.

Nine seriously ill patients were interviewed on this matter directly after bedside teaching had taken place. Serious illness was defined as a state in which the patients were unable, or significantly impaired to care for their basic needs. Interviews were performed at the patient’s bedside.

Qualitative data analysis confirmed the expectation that information, linguistic usage, etiquette, as well as facial expression and gesture that belong to verbal and nonverbal communication have an impact on patients’ perception of bedside teaching. The majority of the patients stated to have perceived bedside teaching in a positive fashion when students were polite, introduced themselves, and were respectful. Besides, they liked being asked for permission before bedside teaching and examination performed by students. Furthermore they were pleased when being informed about the single steps of the ongoing examination.

Eye-contact, a friendly facial expression, and both adequate gesture and special behavior were also named as important aspects of bedside communication.

By contrast, using a high degree of medical jargon, disregarding hygienic standards and being touched by several students at the same time were described as negative aspects.

Apart from that, patients named several contextual variables that also played a role for their acceptance of bedside teaching, i.e. hospital organization, individual attitude towards both medical students and physicians, and patient based learning.

Seriously ill patients reported negative and positive perceptions of bedside teaching. In general, even seriously ill patients experienced positive teaching encounters.


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