The Teaching of Clinical Skills and the Applicability of a Simplified Guide to Physical Examination in Undergraduate Medical Training

<div><p>ABSTRACT Introduction: Despite technological advances, anamnesis and physical examination remain the most important and effective diagnostic tools in a clinical case. However, many students complete their medical degree lacking these essential skills. The unstandardized character of the physical examination is considered one of the major hurdles in the teaching-learning of this practice. Objective: To evaluate the clinical skills of medical students and the applicability of a simplified physical examination guide for the improvement of these skills. Methods: This was an analytical and quantitative-approach study, which compared before-and-after information among general medicine student interns from January to February 2014. The students were trained with the simplified guide for a 3-week period. The students had their clinical examination evaluated in 13 items: vital signs, oral cavity examination, ophthalmoscopy, otoscopy, thyroid examination, cardiovascular, pulmonary, abdominal examination, lymph nodes, anthropometric measurements, ankle-brachial index (ABI), neurological examination, examination of the breast (female patients) or testicles (male patients). The result of each part of the examination was classified into three categories: complete assessment, partial assessment and absent assessment. Results: A total of 31 students participated. Significant improvement was found in almost all items in relation to the complete evaluation after training with the guide: cardiovascular system (3.23% versus 74.19%, before and after training, respectively, p < 0.01), pulmonary system (22.58% versus 90.32%, p < 0.01), abdomen (22.58% versus 74.19%, p = 0.01), vital signs (16.13% versus 100%, p < 0.01), palpation of lymph nodes (6.45% versus 77.42%, p < 0.01), neurological examination (0% versus 22.58%, p = 0.02), thyroid palpation (0% versus 61.29%, p < 0.01), examination of oral cavity (6.45% versus 67.74%, p < 0.01), anthropometric measurements (0% versus 45.16%, p < 0.01), breast examination (0% versus 36.84%, p = 0.02), ophthalmoscopy (0% versus 32.26%, p < 0.01), otoscopy (0% versus 64.52%, p < 0.01); evaluation of the ankle-brachial index (0% versus 83.87%, p < 0.01), examination of the testicles (0% versus 8.33%, p = 1.0). A 280.7% increase was also observed in the students’ median score after training (1.92 versus 7.31 points, P < 0.001). There was no significant correlation between student performance and time on the medical course (R2 = 0.1242; P = 0.0515). Conclusions: There is a large deficit in teaching clinical skills during undergraduate medical courses. As an effective solution, a simplified sequential clinical examination guide can serve as training for medical students.</p></div>