Bedside Teaching is a Powerful Learning Tool in the ICU

An analysis by Christopher Cheney in HealthLeaders discusses the importance of teaching at the bedside in the ICU--it's a challenging and unique environment due to “the medical complexity of the patients [and] the time pressure.”

According to HealthLeaders, by offering learners moments of “clinically applicable, relevant teaching points delivered just-in-time,” bedside teaching is engaging residents in the ICU. Research cited by Cheney confirms that these trainees value learning through the incorporation of this type of “direct patient care with education.” Those surveyed said they favor observation at the bedside, including demonstrations of “empathy and compassion to patients” and explanations of “clinical reasoning and differential diagnosis in the critically ill patient.” Most importantly, the residents say they want a teaching physician to show enthusiasm for and enjoyment of being at the bedside.

Since physicians in many settings face time constraints, enthusiasm for bedside teaching can be a challenge. This is particularly true in a setting like the ICU, a clinical environment that Cheney calls “extremely fast-pace” where physicians are “balancing high clinical workloads with teaching.” Some creative approaches to bedside teaching help address these obstacles using tactics like the “1-minute preceptor,” a method similar to Stanford Medicine 25’s 5 Minute Bedside Moment. These kinds of bedside teaching techniques can be applied in time sensitive situations, while still allowing instructors to present content in an engaging, digestible and relevant manner. Furthermore, they reinforce contextual learning, the cultivation of empathy in medicine and development of physical exam skills.

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