Purpose. Little is known about how different ambulatory sites compare as clinical educational settings. The authors used students' log data to compare the educational content and processes in academic medical center-based clinics (AMCs), affiliated residency teaching sites (ARTs), and local community-based practices (CBPs) at one medical school. Method. Students recorded their experiences with symptoms, counseling, procedures, and common medical conditions as well as characteristics of the learning process during a required eight-week third-year ambulatory clerkship in family medicine. Descriptive statistics, chi-square for differences in categorical variables, and analysis of variance and multivariate analysis of variance for differences in continuous variables were used to compare the educational settings. Results. Over 9,000 encounters were analyzed; 29.7% occurred in AMCs, 14.8% in ARTs, and 55.5% in CBPs. The proportion of continuity visits was lowest in the AMCs and highest in CBPs (13% versus 22%, respectively; p < .01). Students saw almost 57,000 symptoms and conditions. Of 19 symptoms compared, seven differed significantly among the three settings: back pain, cough, dyspnea, ENT (ears, nose, throat problems), fatigue, knee pain, and vomiting. All but one of these were least likely to occur in ARTs. Procedures were performed more frequently, whereas counseling skills were called upon less frequently in CBPs. Students reported being more likely to work unobserved while conducting physical examinations in ARTs and CBPs. Amount of feedback provided on clinical skills did not differ, but students reported receiving more teaching about patient management in ARTs and AMCs versus CBPs (74%, 72%, and 66% of encounters, respectively; p < .01). Conclusions. Academic and community settings can complement each other as learning sites for an ambulatory clerkship in family medicine, and common curricular expectations can be achieved. Settings' differences and similarities should be taken into account when developing, implementing, or revising clerkship programs and should be considered with students' interests and previous clinical experiences before assigning students to a teaching site.
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