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Acad Med. 1999 Jan;74(1 Suppl):S59-66.

The impact of early clinical training in medical education: a multi-institutional assessment.

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Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.


With funding from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Generalist Physician Initiative, Dartmouth Medical School (DMS), New York Medical College (NYMC), and Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine (VCU-SOM) adopted early community-based training models for longitudinal clinical experiences. These schools developed different evaluation strategies to assess these models. This paper describes each program, the method used to evaluate an aspect of the program, lessons learned about early clinical teaching and learning, and challenges encountered. Each program used cross-sectional evaluation, and the analysis methods included descriptive statistics, chi-square, t-tests, analysis of variance, and generalized linear models. Dartmouth determined that the type of preceptor does not greatly influence the development of clinical skills, although case-specific differences were discovered. NYMC learned that students taught clinical skills in community-based settings performed as well as or better than their peers who received early patient experience on hospital wards. Virginia Commonwealth discovered that community experiences contributed positively to students' education, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Students value early clinical experiences and make important achievements in clinical skills and knowledge development, although logistic challenges exist in conducting these courses. Evaluations are critical to ensure competency, and faculty development must be linked to the evaluation process.

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