Evaluations of clinical faculty typically incorporate comments from rotating medical students and residents regarding their teaching ability. In the Emergency Department (ED), how do you balance your pressing clinical responsibilities with teaching?

There were 28 Canadian medical students and residents in their focus group interviews in this qualitative study. Learners were asked what qualities made a good EM teacher. Answers were transcribed and coded. There were 14 positive qualities identified.

The top 5 positive qualities

  1. Has a positive teacher attitude
  2. Takes time to teach
  3. Uses teachable moments well
  4. Tailors teaching to the learner
  5. Gives appropriate feedback

What exactly does a “positive teacher attitude” mean?

Learners wanted a teacher to be:

  • Attentive to the learner
  • Enthusiastic
  • Approachable
  • Communicates
  • Takes initiative
  • Honest
  • Encouraging
  • Open to questions
  • Patient
  • Flexible
  • Sense of humor

What were qualities #6-14?

  • Demonstrates useful ED skill
  • Treats learner as a colleague
  • Provides independence
  • Sets expectations
  • Teaches skills effectively
  • Uses formal teaching techniques or sessions
  • Possess formal training in education
  • Uses teaching visual aids

My educator trick of the trade

At the beginning of the shift, I try to ask the learner what field that are in (if resident) or are intending to pursue (if student). I ask them if there’s something that they want to learn more about while on the ED rotation. This already tells them that I’m invested in their education and will try to tailor teaching based on their interests. It’s quick and simple.


Thurgur, L., Bandiera, G., Lee, S., & Tiberius, R. (2005). What Do Emergency Medicine Learners Want from Their Teachers? A Multicenter Focus Group Analysis. Acad Emerg Med, 12 (9), 856-861. DOI: 10.1197/j.aem.2005.04.022

Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at Bio:
Michelle Lin, MD