BACKGROUND: Education is a major function of academic medical centers. At these teaching institutions residents provide a substantial amount of care on medical and surgical services. The attitudes of patients about the training of surgical residents and the impact of residents on patients' perceptions of care in a surgical setting are unknown. STUDY DESIGN: Patients admitted to the gastrointestinal surgery service completed a 30-item survey designed for this study. Patients included in the study underwent operations and had a postoperative inpatient hospital stay. We analyzed patients' answers to determine frequency and correlations among answers. RESULTS: Two hundred patients participated in the study during a 7-month period between July 1999 and January 2000. A majority of patients were comfortable having residents involved in their care (86%) and felt it was important to help educate future surgeons (91%). Most did not feel inconvenienced by being at a teaching hospital (71%) and felt they received extra attention there (74%). Patients were more willing to participate in resident education if they expected to have several physicians involved in their care, felt that they received extra attention, or if the teaching atmosphere did not inconvenience them. Despite the stated willingness of patients to help with surgical resident education, 32% answered that they would not want residents doing any of their operation. CONCLUSIONS: Surgical resident education is well received and considered important by patients. Patient orientation to the resident education process is vital to patients' perceptions of care and may render patients more willing to participate in educational activities.
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