Background: Many medical schools require a family medicine clerkship, yet little is known about the quantity and diversity of the diagnoses encountered by the students. Purpose: This study examines patients encountered with psychiatric diagnoses using quantitative data collected by students in a family practice clerkship. Methods: Over a 2-year period, 445 students completed 3,320 patient encounter forms for patients with a psychiatric diagnosis, noting their comfort level and responsibilities. Results: The patients'diagnoses reflect those seen in a typical family practice. Of the 71,869 presenting diagnoses, 3,548 were for a psychiatric condition, most commonly depression (37.1%) and neuroses (28.0%). Students reported a high level of comfort in diagnosing and treating patients with a psychiatric disorder. The students routinely discussed these cases with their preceptors. Conclusions: By using a relatively simple computerized database, many curricular issues can be identified. For example, analysis of the database shows that the clerkship provides students with substantial practice in taking patient histories and performing initial patient examinations in patients presenting with a psychiatric problem. However, students infrequently provided patient education and counseling to patients with psychiatric disorders. Specific psychiatric diagnoses reflecting limited experience and lower levels of perceived competence include attention deficit disorder and senile and presenile organic psychotic disorders.
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