Preceptors’ Understanding and Use of Role Modeling to Develop the CanMEDS Competencies in Residents

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Role modeling by preceptors is a key strategy for training residents in the competencies defined within the CanMEDS conceptual framework. However, little is known about the extent to which preceptors are aware of the importance of role modeling or how they perceive and enact it in their daily interactions with residents. The purpose of this study was to describe how preceptors understand and use role modeling to develop CanMEDS competencies in residents.


In 2010, the authors conducted a descriptive qualitative study with preceptors in medical, surgical, and laboratory specialties who supervised residents on a regular basis at the Université Laval Faculty of Medicine (Québec, Canada). Respondents participated in semistructured, individual interviews. An inductive thematic analysis of interview transcripts was conducted using triangulation.


Most participants highlighted the importance of role modeling to support residents’ development of the CanMEDS competencies, particularly communication, collaboration, and professionalism, which preceptors perceived as “less scientific” and the most difficult to teach. Although most participants reported using an implicit, unstructured role modeling process, some described more explicit strategies. Eight types of educational challenges in role modeling the CanMEDS competencies were identified, including encouraging reflective practice, understanding the competencies and their importance in one’s specialty, and being aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses as a clinical teacher.


Preceptors are aware of the importance of role modeling competencies for residents, but many do so only implicitly. This study’s findings are important for improving strategies for role modeling and for the professional development of preceptors.

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