Student views on early clinical learning experiences
Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Aim - The aim of this study was to explore second year medical students’ perceptions of their early clinical experiences with a view to improving curriculum development so as to enhance early clinical training programmes at Stellenbosch University (SU). Methodology - A qualitative, interpretive study, based on semi-structured focus group discussions with second year medical students was conducted in order to capture the relevant data that would provide information about their attitudes, feelings, beliefs and views on their early clinical learning experiences during their first year of studying medicine at SU. Thirty seven students participated in four focus group discussions after a process of selection of candidates using purposive sampling methods and stratification criteria to obtain the research sample. The interviews were moderated by an external facilitator, and were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. The data transcripts were analysed and manually coded, and four broad categories with subthemes which illustrated the findings of the study, were identified and decided upon by the researcher and verified by the supervisor. Results - Early clinical exposure was generally positively perceived by students. It fostered a sense of vocation and feeling like real doctors, leaving students motivated and enhancing their learning interest. Early clinical skills training led to students’ professional development, acquiring the technical skills of a doctor, familiarisation with basic clinical terminology, and normal clinical findings which prepared them for later clinical studies. The new setting of practical learning in a simulated environment required students to adapt to small group learning and student clinical demonstrations which developed new learning styles and study skills. Some of the challenges that students encountered in the transition to clinical learning were, understanding the new subject of clinical medicine, having limited background knowledge to acquire basic clinical skills, and student clinical demonstrations. Although the strategy of peer physical examination was perceived to be effective, some ethical dilemmas emerged for students in terms of autonomy, and no opportunities available to practice on female models. Acting as a simulated patient proved to have both positive and negative outcomes on students’ skills acquisition. Factors that had a negative outcome on clinical skills learning were limited practice opportunities due to high student to teacher ratios per clinical session, and the variability of teaching content and practical techniques taught by various clinical tutors with different teaching strategies. The most stressful experience for students was the OSCE since it was a new method of assessment. Stress was attributed to uncertainty about the correct clinical content and techniques resulting from the teaching variability, while performance anxiety during the exam was related to inappropriate examiner behaviour. The OSCE was a positive learning experience because its format simulated the hospital setting which fostered students’ critical thinking abilities and time management. Conclusion - Early clinical exposure and practice have a great impact on junior medical students’ academic growth, and have positive learning outcomes. However, further development by the faculty in the areas of didactic skills, addressing the ethical issues related to student clinical demonstrations, and supporting students to enable a smooth transition to clinical learning will enhance and optimise their early clinical training.