Medical students' experience with musculoskeletal diagnosis in a family medicine clerkship

Robert M. Saywell, Brenda S. O'Hara, Terrell W. Zollinger, Joseph Scott Wooldbridge, Jennifer L. Burba, Douglas B. McKeag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Many US medical schools require a family medicine clerkship, yet little is known about the quantity and diversity of the diagnoses the students experience. This study examines patients encountered with musculoskeletal diagnoses using quantitative data collected by family practice clerkship students. Over a two-year period, 445 students completed 7202 patient encounter forms for patients with a musculoskeletal diagnosis, noting their confidence level and responsibilities. Of the 78,854 diagnoses presented, 7850 were for musculoskeletal conditions. Students reported a lower level of confidence in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal patients when compared with their confidence level in dealing with non-musculoskeletal patients. They are generally more actively involved with musculoskeletal patients by observing, seeing the patients before the preceptor, taking a history, suggesting treatment and discussing the case with the preceptor. At the study school, this fact may reflect that formal curricular teaching in orthopedics occurs in the fourth year, after students have completed their family medicine clerkship. It is concluded that by using a relatively simple computerized database, areas of need for curricular change can be identified. Our study verifies that additional training is needed in the area of musculoskeletal diagnoses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-192
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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