The First Clinical Skill: Students Teach Students to Take Vital Signs

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Dwyer, R. Gregg ; Deloney, Linda A. ; Cantrell, Mary J. ; Graham, C. James (2009)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: Medical Education Online (issn: 1087-2981, eissn: 1087-2981)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/meo.v7i.4545
  • Subject:
    acm: ComputingMilieux_COMPUTERSANDEDUCATION

Transition from the role of passive student to medical practitioner begins with learning the first clinical skill. This transition can be stressful for those experiencing it and to some extent by those coordinating it. Logistically, it requires demonstration of the techniques to the entire class by a single practitioner or to smaller groups of students by multiple practitioners. The former reduces the opportunity for close observation of technique and is less conducive to questions, while the latter requires multiple practitioners, which can be prohibitive given their already dense schedules. To reduce the stress for all involved and to maximize learning opportunities, an innovative approach to teaching the first skill, vital signs measurement, was developed. Small group instruction and practice were facilitated by senior medical student volunteers in a simulated outpatient clinic using actual equipment. Instruction was provided in a relaxed, but guided format. Students were provided with a lesson plan that detailed both, technique and brief physiology points, as well as check sheets to use during the lab and later as a refresher guide. The lesson plan, instructions for facilitators, and student check sheets were developed by a senior medical student and reviewed by the course faculty. Recruitment and briefing of student facilitators and conduct of the lab were also performed by the senior student. The purpose of this trend article is to describe the development of a new course format and to report our experience with implementation of the new format. It is intended to spark interest in applying similar approaches to other curricular issues.
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