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‘I'm a doctor, not a teacher’: the roles and responsibilities of paediatricians in relation to education
  1. Melissa Mulholland1,
  2. Ben McNaughten1,
  3. Thomas Bourke1,2
  1. 1 Paediatrics, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, Belfast, UK
  2. 2 Centre for Medical Education, Queens University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ben McNaughten, Paediatrics, Antrim Area Hospital, Antrim, UK; bmcnaughten01{at}

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Medicine and teaching are intrinsically linked. Traditionally, medical education was an apprenticeship model, where practical experience superseded book learning and the student/teacher relationship was paramount.1 2 In recent years there has been increased professionalisation of medical education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Although this development should be embraced, there is concern that clinical and educational roles are now often seen as separate and, at times, conflicting entities. Leonard H ‘Bones’ McCoy, the chief medical officer of the Starship Enterprise, was known to Star Trek fans for his catchphrase ‘I’m a doctor (Jim), not a…bricklayer/psychologist/coal-miner etc.’. While the academic lecturer should be clear and enthusiastic about their role as a teacher, the ‘jobbing paediatrician’ can have a more challenging time balancing clinical and teaching responsibilities. In the busyness of the hospital environment it becomes easy to prioritise clinical duties and mirror ‘Bones’ in adopting the attitude that ‘I’m a doctor, not a teacher’.

Despite many recent changes in how medical education is delivered, experiential workplace learning remains crucial.3 4 This article encourages all paediatricians to reconsider their role as both clinician and teacher.

Why should I teach?

Professional obligation

The importance of the clinical teacher was first outlined within the Hippocratic Oath (box 1). Although this …

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  • Correction notice This paper has been updated since it was published online. Figure 2 has been increased in size to improve legibility.

  • Contributors MM wrote the first draft which was reviewed and amended by BMcN and TB.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.