Development of physical examination skills in a third-year surgical clerkship

Cathy J. Schwind, Margaret L. Boehler, Roland Folse, Gary Dunnington, Stephen J. Markwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Background: Previous studies have revealed deficiencies in physical examination (PE) skills of third-year medical students. The purpose of this study was to determine if formal teaching of PE skills and more supervised experiences with clinical faculty would increase the competency of these skills. Methods: Forty-nine third-year medical students were assigned to one of two groups: group A was given formal instruction on PE skills at the beginning of the clerkship, and group B received the same instruction at the midpoint of the clerkship. The two groups received an assessment of the PE skills before, in the middle, and at the end of clerkship, utilizing a physician-developed checklist. Results: Group A had a pretest score of 57.7%. Group B scored 59.8% on the pretest. Independent groups t tests were used to compare the two groups. At the midterm examination, group A increased their score to 71.0%, while group B decreased their score to 55.6%. From beginning to final, both groups had significant improvements in all areas, with group A scoring an overall mean of 75.1% (P = 0.0001), and group B scoring 75.5% (P = 0.0001). Conclusion: These findings show the effectiveness of structured learning situations for improving third-year surgery students' PE skills. There is also an indication that usual clerkship activities may not enhance learning of PE skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-340
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 11 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical competence
  • Medical education
  • Medical student
  • Physical examination
  • Residents
  • Surgery education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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