Why should you teach Clinical Skills?

Today’s blog article comes from Dr. Cherie Jones, MD, FRCPC,
Course Director, Clinical and Communication Skills and Ms. Kathy Bowes, RN, Clinical Skills Coordinator.

Clinical Skills training is core to any undergraduate medical curriculum. Here at Queen’s University, first and second year medical students learn “the tools of their trade” in a variety of settings and formats every week. Medical students and clinical skills tutors identify the small group teaching as the most useful and enjoyable aspect of the entire program. Furthermore, despite the significant time commitment clinical skills tutors report that the afternoon small group teaching is a highlight of their week.

“Students are so excited to be finally looking and acting like doctors with their white coats, new stethoscopes…. (they are) keen to learn the skills they associate with physicians. At this stage we can really influence the way they will interact with their patients and the type of physician they will eventually be.”

Dr. Jay Engel MD, FRCPC, Division Head of Surgical Oncology, KGH

In the pre-clerkship clinical skills curriculum, much of what is learned by students occurs in a small group setting of ten students supervised by two tutors. Once a week they meet for an afternoon and tutors guide and direct their students so that they can learn the history taking and physical exam skills that are essential to the competent practice of medicine. This year we asked tutors “Why do you teach clinical skills?”, especially since many return year after year. As most eloquently stated by Dr. Peter Froud….

“Because for many years I have felt that some of the most necessary skills for MDs are those that involve listening and questioning skills and the self-confidence needed for these skills… if I am able to impart all or most all of these skills to a group of new students every year, in my own small way I will be helping….”

Clinical skills tutors take their jobs very seriously. They feel that the role they play in providing feedback is critical for making good doctors; whether it be in the context of interacting with their students every week or during the time outside of the scheduled curriculum correcting case write-ups, reviewing reflection essays and communicating narrative feedback over the course of the term.
Additionally when tutors were asked what advice they would have for physicians interested in becoming tutors, one of our award winning tutors responded …..

“…..I seem to be more confident at it (teaching clinical skills) then I originally thought I was …. now I recognize that I possess professional expertise that not every tutor will have, and that I bring something unique and valuable.”

Clinical Skills tutors teach basic skills for future physicians. It begins with teaching students how to use shiny new stethoscopes, interact with patients, and culminates in the making of a medical student who is well equipped to enter clerkship. At Queen’s University tutors who have participated in clinical skills teaching find it rewarding, one hopes because they have come to realize that their input is critical if we are to create the next generation of competent physicians.

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