‘I'm a doctor, not a teacher’: the roles and responsibilities of paediatricians in relation to education

Melissa Mulholland, Ben McNaughten, Thomas Bourke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Medicine and teaching are intrinsically linked. Traditionally, medical education was an apprenticeship model, where practical experience superseded book learning and the student/teacher relationship was paramount.1 2 In recent years there has been increased professionalisation of medical education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Although this development should be embraced, there is concern that clinical and educational roles are now often seen as separate and, at times, conflicting entities. Leonard H ‘Bones’ McCoy, the chief medical officer of the Starship Enterprise, was known to Star Trek fans for his catchphrase ‘I’m a doctor (Jim), not a…bricklayer/psychologist/coal-miner etc.’. While the academic lecturer should be clear and enthusiastic about their role as a teacher, the ‘jobbing paediatrician’ can have a more challenging time balancing clinical and teaching responsibilities. In the busyness of the hospital environment it becomes easy to prioritise clinical duties and mirror ‘Bones’ in adopting the attitude that ‘I’m a doctor, not a teacher’.
Despite many recent changes in how medical education is delivered, experiential workplace learning remains crucial.3 4 This article encourages all paediatricians to reconsider their role as both clinician and teacher.
Original languageEnglish
Article number320266
JournalArchives of Disease in Childhood: Education and Practice Edition
Early online date03 Dec 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 03 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • history of medicine
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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