Purpose Difficulty in recruiting and retaining community preceptors for medical student education has been described in the literature. Yet little, if any, information is known about community outpatient preceptors who have stopped or decreased teaching time with students. This study aimed to examine these preceptors' perspectives about this phenomenon. Method Using a phenomenology framework, this multi-institutional qualitative study used semistructured interviews with community pediatric preceptors who had stopped or reduced teaching time with medical students. Interviews were conducted between October 2017 and January 2018 and transcribed verbatim. Interviews explored factors for engaging in teaching, or decreasing or ceasing teaching, that would enable future teaching. An initial code book was developed and refined as data were analyzed to generate themes. Results Twenty-seven community pediatricians affiliated with 10 institutions participated. Thirty-seven codes resulted in 4 organizing themes: evolution of health care, personal barriers, educational system, and ideal situations to recruit and retain preceptors, each with subthemes. Conclusions From the viewpoints of physicians who had decreased or stopped teaching students, this study more deeply explores previously described reasons contributing to the decline of community preceptors, adds newly described barriers, and offers strategies to help counter this phenomenon based on preceptors' perceptions. These findings appear to be manifestations of deeper issues including the professional identify of clinical educators. Understanding the barriers and strategies and how they relate to preceptors themselves should better inform education leaders to more effectively halt the decline of community precepting and enhance the clinical precepting environment for medical students.
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