Value-Added Activities in Medical Education: A Multisite Survey of First- and Second-Year Medical Students’ Perceptions and Factors Influencing Their Potential Engagement

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To describe attitudes of first- and second-year U.S. medical students toward value-added medical education, assess their self-reported desire to participate in value-added activities, and identify potentially modifiable factors influencing their engagement.


The authors conducted a cross-sectional survey of first- and second-year students at nine U.S. medical schools in 2017. Survey items measured students’ attitudes toward value-added medical education (n = 7), desire to participate in value-added activities (n = 20), and factors influencing potential engagement (n = 18).


Of 2,670 students invited to participate, 1,372 (51%) responded. Seventy-six percent (1,043/1,368) moderately or strongly agreed they should make meaningful contributions to patient care. Students’ desire to participate was highest for patient care activities approximating those traditionally performed by physicians, followed by systems improvement activities and lowest for activities not typically performed by physicians. Factors increasing desire to participate included opportunities to interact with practicing physicians (1,182/1,244; 95%), patients (1,177/1,246; 95%), and residents or fellows (1,166/1,246; 94%). Factors decreasing desire to participate included making changes to the health care system (365/1,227; 30%), interacting with patients via phone or electronic communication (410/1,243; 33%), and lack of curricular time (634/1,233; 51%).


First- and second-year medical students agree they should add value to patient care, but their desire to participate in value-added activities varies depending on the nature of the tasks. Medical schools may be able to increase students’ desire to participate by enabling face-to-face interactions with patients, embedding students in health care teams, and providing dedicated curricular time.

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