The process of resident education in an internal medicine practice was examined through interviews with 14 residents, who discussed their educational experience while caring for 10 patients. These retrospective evaluations provided insights about how the residents learned when caring for their patients. The study results suggest that resident education in this setting depends upon feedback provided through residents' use of educational resources or through their participation in elements of patient care. These essential elements of resident education were identified: treating and following patients, having cases reviewed by consultants and supervisors, encountering and recognizing diseases, and reading about problems. The study results provide a conceptual model of resident education upon which to base future research projects that should focus on patient selection and organizational aspects of the residents' practice.