Perceptions of preparedness for the first medical clerkship: a systematic review and synthesis
OBJECTIVES The preclinical years of undergraduate medical education provide educational content in a structured learning environment whereas clerkships provide clinical training in a more experiential manner. Although early clinical skills training is emphasized in many medical schools, students still feel unprepared and anxious about starting their clerkships. This study identifies the skills medical students perceive as essential and those skill areas students are most anxious about prior to starting clerkship rotations. METHODS Open-ended questionnaires were administered to two cohorts of students, preclinical students (PCS) completing their second year and clinical students (CS) in the ninth month of the clinical training of their third year at a single urban US medical school. The following questions were addressed in the survey: which three clinical skills do they perceive are most essential for the clerkships; which skills are students most anxious about as they enter clerkships; and what additional skills training should be provided to students to ease the transition into clerkships. RESULTS Response rate to the questionnaire was 84%. PCS (n=93) reported the three most essential skills to be prepared for clerkships are: history taking/physical examination (73%), proficiency in oral case presentations (56%), and generation of differential diagnosis (46%). CS (n=105) reported interpersonal skills (80%), history taking/physical examination (37%), and time management (26%) as most essential. PCS were most anxious about their oral case presentation skills (30%), but CS were most concerned about time management and self care (40%). CONCLUSIONS This study identified the skills that students at one school regard as most important to have mastered before beginning clerkship training and the areas students find most anxiety provoking before and after they make the transition into clerkships. These results can inform medical educators about needed curriculum to facilitate this transition and decrease the anxiety of students entering the clinical realm.