Patient Immersion Experience: Impact of a Mirrored Perspective in Medical Education

Student Researcher:
Connor Lengkeek

Supervisor / Principle Investigator:
Connor Lengkeek

Additional Authors:
Dr. Brett-MacLean
Dr. Goez
Dr. Hillier

MD Class of 2021


The University of Alberta medical education program seeks to develop its student’s ability to inform, communicate, and connect with patients. The program has integrated patient exposure into first and second year curriculum primarily through the Physicianship I and II courses. Pre-clerkship patient exposure is achieved through Longitudinal Clinical Experience (LCE) and Patient Immersion Experience (PIE) programs, with students being matched to a primary care centre and a chronically ill patient. Through LCE and PIE, students are exposed to two opposing perspectives regarding the same relationship. LCE allows students to form a longitudinal connection with a physician mentor, to obtain early hands-on experience in patient interaction and management, and to correlate skills learned through coinciding classroom education. Through PIE, students meet with a chronically ill patient and are encouraged to discuss and reflect on the effects of chronic illness, stigmatization, and bias. Students also meet monthly for Physician Discussion Groups sessions where a group facilitated by a physician discusses their experiences in these two course components and other aspects of their medical education. The identified strengths of PIE were that the program provided students with a longitudinal patient relationship, communication development, independence, and a focused consideration of the impact of a disease. LCE allowed students a perspective with more variety, a broader perspective, and a direct physician mentor. Therefore, the guidance offered by PIE is not only mirrored in perspective relative to LCE but also in exposure to a single illness versus a broad variety, continuing versus acute care,, and independent versus directed interactions. Additionally, areas were identified where either both programs were unsuccessful or where one was unable to compensate for an area of weakness in the other. In order to optimize student learning and exposure, it may be beneficial to embrace the polarity of PIE and LCE, while focusing on improving areas of criticism where neither program was successful in meeting student expectations.