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The cost of teaching an intern in New South Wales

To the Editor: While Oates and colleagues1 provide an insightful introduction to intern teaching in New South Wales, I offer an alternative to their views; what is considered teaching is not agreed on, and does not necessarily translate to learning.

Informal teaching (and learning) occurs during work-based activities like ward rounds, departmental meetings, grand rounds and quality improvement activities. These are set out as learning opportunities for interns by the Australian Medical Council.2

What supervisors consider to be informal learning probably does not coincide with interns’ expectations of teaching.

Junior medical officers should realise that, for them, learning from informal teaching is not about acquiring knowledge of diseases or skills, as it is for medical students. Rather, it is about acquiring knowledge of work processes and resource management — expertise not well described in medical literature. Fiona Lake, a developer of Teaching on the Run,

bases her own teaching on the idea that if something can be learnt from a textbook, it is of no help for her to teach it as well. ‘It’s a complete waste of time for me to teach it!’3

Adult learning forms a significant portion of any postgraduate vocational…