6 Tips for Being a Good Teacher

Teaching is part of a resident’s role. It’s also part of a practicing physician’s role — even those not working in academic centers. Unfortunately, it’s a topic very often overlooked in medical school. All of a sudden, you’re expected to teach (as well as take care of a long list of patients, read and write papers, and live a healthy, balanced life…). Here’s a few tips to get you going.

Create a friendly environment

This goes without saying, but medicine, in general, is a field well known for an archaic hierarchal system. Be nice and others will be nice to you. Grilling is so 1992.

Identify goals and audience

You have to adjust your teaching to your audience. Try your best to picture yourself at the level of the learner. Remember when a CT scan was as mysterious as an abstract painting? Remember; always remember.

Have topics to teach on the fly

Pro tip: when you are finished giving a formal presentation, scribble a few teaching points and approaches. This can come in handy when you’re asked to teach junior residents or medical students at the last minute.


This is just my opinion. I dislike Powerpoint presentations. As a resident, the best teaching sessions were the ones where we saw a patient and ran through the issues and teaching points on the whiteboard. Canned presentations are usually very boring. The drawback here is that you have to be really comfortable with the topic. Slides are a good way to hide a lack of true understanding…

Short and sweet

I was sitting in the staff room the other day and the urology staff walked in and started an hour-long teaching session. That was on a Friday. At 6PM. Come on guys! Aim for 15 minutes (unless a schedule has been assigned) and keep track of time. Stop when your time limit is over, even if your topic is “super interesting”.


When you’re finished your presentation, try to summarize the topic in one sentence. Not easy, but being able to summarize a topic on the spot is a super useful skill to develop as a physician. Plus, it will help you create better Tweets, which will help with your social media skills.

More reading

One minute preceptor. Teaching is most often seamless, and happens in the hallway or just after you saw a patient.

An ebook by EMRA (Emergency Medicine Resident’s Association – USA) Is geared more towards emergency medicine, but the principles apply to all specialties.


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