Medical education in the ambulatory care setting is characterized in part by the question of how to ensure educational effectiveness while simultaneously providing high-quality, cost-effective patient care. The constraints associated with managed care have only served to escalate the intensity of this dilemma. However, in spite of the difficulties faced by ambulatory care preceptors, there are educationally sound and time-efficient strategies clinical teachers may employ to improve ambulatory care education. Emphasizing the basic three-step process of planning, teaching, and reflection, the authors describe five such strategies: 'wave' scheduling, orienting learners to patients, having learners do their case presentations in the examination room, employing the microskills of the 'one-minute preceptor,' and effectively reflecting on one's teaching in order to develop effective teaching scripts. Research in ambulatory care learning has indicated that learners must be given significant roles in patient care and that preceptors must observe trainees as they care for patients so that they can provide trainees with helpful feedback. Employing these strategies in the ambulatory care setting will help educators to accomplish these two objectives while minimizing disruption to cost-effective, high-quality clinical practice.
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