Brief Reports

Teaching Physical Examination to Medical Students on Inpatient Medicine Teams: A Prospective, Mixed-Methods Descriptive Study


Physical examination (PE) is a core clinical competency, and the internal medicine clerkship is a premiere venue for students to develop PE skills. However, clinical rotations often lack opportunities for real-time instruction. We sought to measure the frequency, content, and factors affecting PE instruction during the internal medicine clerkship. We conducted a prospective mixed-methods study at a single academic center. Data were gathered by a student researcher who directly observed inpatient teams over 3 months. We quantified the frequency of PE teaching activities and analyzed daily written observations using qualitative content analysis. PE was most frequently discussed during bedside rounds and least often during workroom rounds. Direct observation of students’ examinations rarely occurred. Multiple factors in the learning environment were posited to affect PE instruction. In brief, we found that residents and attending physicians who are part of internal medicine teaching services do not routinely emphasize PE instruction.

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