The Master's Apprentice: How do Australian medical interns learn?

Allyson Agnew, Tarun Sen Gupta, Frances Quirk, Rebecca Evans, Sarah Larkins


 Introduction: The 2015 Review of Medical Intern Training Discussion Paper (Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council, 2015) questions the purpose and effectiveness of the current model of internship. However, there is limited literature describing how the medical internship functioned when first established in Australia, or how the educational model has changed over the years.

Methods: A study with the aim of determining how interns currently learn and the degree to which learning still follows an apprenticeship model was conducted over a 2-year period in a large Australian regional hospital. Sixty interns entered learning reflections into a 4-step online survey. A descriptive analysis was undertaken on the extracted data using Microsoft Excel. 

Results: Results of the study indicate that interns still learn via the apprenticeship relationship they have with their supervisors (registrars and/or consultants) more than they do via self-directed means. Findings from this study suggest that learning in medicine is an iterative process; interns will learn via modelling from their supervisors, on the one hand, but will use self-directed learning when and where necessary. Interns indicated learning more content than they do tasks related to administration or professional identity. There are varying emphases of learning in each of the core terms of medicine, surgery and emergency medicine, which suggests that it is important for interns to continue to have learning opportunities in a variety of settings and disciplines.

Conclusions: This study provides some insights into how and what interns learn, which should be considered when decisions are made about future models of medical intern training.


medical education; internship; learning

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