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Managing the complexity of doing it all : an exploratory study on students' experiences when trained stepwise in conducting consultations

Leen Aper (UGent) , Jan Reniers (UGent) , Anselme Derese (UGent) and Wemke Veldhuijzen
Author
Organization
Abstract
Background: At most medical schools the components required to conduct a consultation, medical knowledge, communication, clinical reasoning and physical examination skills, are trained separately. Afterwards, all the knowledge and skills students acquired must be integrated into complete consultations, an art that lies at the heart of the medical profession. Inevitably, students experience conducting consultations as complex and challenging. Literature emphasizes the importance of three didactic course principles: moving from partial tasks to whole task learning, diminishing supervisors' support and gradually increasing students' responsibility. This study explores students' experiences of an integrated consultation course using these three didactic principles to support them in this difficult task. Methods: Six focus groups were conducted with 20 pre-clerkship and 19 clerkship students in total. Discussions were audiotaped, transcribed and analysed by Nvivo using the constant comparative strategy within a thematic analysis. Results: Conducting complete consultations motivated students in their learning process as future physician. Initially, students were very much focused on medical problem solving. Completing the whole task of a consultation obligated them to transfer their theoretical medical knowledge into applicable clinical knowledge on the spot. Furthermore, diminishing the support of a supervisor triggered students to reflect on their own actions but contrasted with their increased appreciation of critical feedback. Increasing students' responsibility stimulated their active learning but made some students feel overloaded. These students were anxious to miss patient information or not being able to take the right decisions or to answer patients' questions, which sometimes resulted in evasive coping techniques, such as talking faster to prevent the patient asking questions. Conclusion: The complex task of conducting complete consultations should be implemented early within medical curricula because students need time to organize their medical knowledge into applicable clinical knowledge. An integrated consultation course should comprise a step-by-step teaching strategy with a variety of supervisors' feedback modi, adapted to students' competence. Finally, students should be guided in formulating achievable standards to prevent them from feeling overloaded in practicing complete consultations with simulated or real patients.
Keywords
DESIGN, SIMULATED PATIENTS, INSTRUCTIVENESS, FEEDBACK, CURRICULUM, MAASTRICHT, CONSEQUENCES, REAL PATIENTS, COMMUNICATION-SKILLS, UNDERGRADUATE MEDICAL-EDUCATION, Professional practice, Physician-patient relations, Clinical competence, Undergraduate, Medical, Education, MeSH terms, Conducting complete consultations, Didactic course principles

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MLA
Aper, Leen et al. “Managing the Complexity of Doing It All : an Exploratory Study on Students’ Experiences When Trained Stepwise in Conducting Consultations.” BMC MEDICAL EDUCATION 14 (2014): n. pag. Print.
APA
Aper, L., Reniers, J., Derese, A., & Veldhuijzen, W. (2014). Managing the complexity of doing it all : an exploratory study on students’ experiences when trained stepwise in conducting consultations. BMC MEDICAL EDUCATION, 14.
Chicago author-date
Aper, Leen, Jan Reniers, Anselme Derese, and Wemke Veldhuijzen. 2014. “Managing the Complexity of Doing It All : an Exploratory Study on Students’ Experiences When Trained Stepwise in Conducting Consultations.” Bmc Medical Education 14.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Aper, Leen, Jan Reniers, Anselme Derese, and Wemke Veldhuijzen. 2014. “Managing the Complexity of Doing It All : an Exploratory Study on Students’ Experiences When Trained Stepwise in Conducting Consultations.” Bmc Medical Education 14.
Vancouver
1.
Aper L, Reniers J, Derese A, Veldhuijzen W. Managing the complexity of doing it all : an exploratory study on students’ experiences when trained stepwise in conducting consultations. BMC MEDICAL EDUCATION. 2014;14.
IEEE
[1]
L. Aper, J. Reniers, A. Derese, and W. Veldhuijzen, “Managing the complexity of doing it all : an exploratory study on students’ experiences when trained stepwise in conducting consultations,” BMC MEDICAL EDUCATION, vol. 14, 2014.
@article{5990482,
  abstract     = {Background: At most medical schools the components required to conduct a consultation, medical knowledge, communication, clinical reasoning and physical examination skills, are trained separately. Afterwards, all the knowledge and skills students acquired must be integrated into complete consultations, an art that lies at the heart of the medical profession. Inevitably, students experience conducting consultations as complex and challenging. Literature emphasizes the importance of three didactic course principles: moving from partial tasks to whole task learning, diminishing supervisors' support and gradually increasing students' responsibility. This study explores students' experiences of an integrated consultation course using these three didactic principles to support them in this difficult task. 
Methods: Six focus groups were conducted with 20 pre-clerkship and 19 clerkship students in total. Discussions were audiotaped, transcribed and analysed by Nvivo using the constant comparative strategy within a thematic analysis. 
Results: Conducting complete consultations motivated students in their learning process as future physician. Initially, students were very much focused on medical problem solving. Completing the whole task of a consultation obligated them to transfer their theoretical medical knowledge into applicable clinical knowledge on the spot. Furthermore, diminishing the support of a supervisor triggered students to reflect on their own actions but contrasted with their increased appreciation of critical feedback. Increasing students' responsibility stimulated their active learning but made some students feel overloaded. These students were anxious to miss patient information or not being able to take the right decisions or to answer patients' questions, which sometimes resulted in evasive coping techniques, such as talking faster to prevent the patient asking questions. 
Conclusion: The complex task of conducting complete consultations should be implemented early within medical curricula because students need time to organize their medical knowledge into applicable clinical knowledge. An integrated consultation course should comprise a step-by-step teaching strategy with a variety of supervisors' feedback modi, adapted to students' competence. Finally, students should be guided in formulating achievable standards to prevent them from feeling overloaded in practicing complete consultations with simulated or real patients.},
  articleno    = {206},
  author       = {Aper, Leen and Reniers, Jan and Derese, Anselme and Veldhuijzen, Wemke},
  issn         = {1472-6920},
  journal      = {BMC MEDICAL EDUCATION},
  keywords     = {DESIGN,SIMULATED PATIENTS,INSTRUCTIVENESS,FEEDBACK,CURRICULUM,MAASTRICHT,CONSEQUENCES,REAL PATIENTS,COMMUNICATION-SKILLS,UNDERGRADUATE MEDICAL-EDUCATION,Professional practice,Physician-patient relations,Clinical competence,Undergraduate,Medical,Education,MeSH terms,Conducting complete consultations,Didactic course principles},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {10},
  title        = {Managing the complexity of doing it all : an exploratory study on students' experiences when trained stepwise in conducting consultations},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1472-6920-14-206},
  volume       = {14},
  year         = {2014},
}

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