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The testing of clinical skills in dietetic students prior to entering clinical placement

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Abstract Background 

One of the most important requirements for contemporary education of a health care professional is to develop a framework for theory and practise which results in attainment of professional competencies suitably robust for a lifetime of practise ( Howe, 2002 ). In the context of those educating preregistration dietitians, this offers the challenge of presenting the student with innovative curricula designed to deliver the appropriate level of knowledge and understanding together with emphasis on skill and attitude development. The purpose of this study was to allow preregistration students the opportunity to practise key clinical skills prior to clinical placement and test skills acquisition using the model of an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE). Methods 

The learning experience of the student was altered to accommodate a more conceptually-driven, problem-centred, case-based approach. The curriculum was adjusted to incorporate a short clinical skills programme where emphasis was deliberately placed on skill acquisition. At the conclusion of this clinical skills programme, and prior to the students entering clinical placement, skill performance by students was tested using the OSCE. The method of testing was also evaluated by students. Results 

The OSCE was delivered to 37 preclinical students. Four of the test candidates (11%) failed in at least one of the skill areas: these students performed similarly during clinical placement. Twenty-one (57%) students returned the post-OSCE questionnaire. Twenty (95%) students reported a positive experience; 20 (95%) students reported initial anxiety that diminished as the test progressed. Conclusion 

The Project Team was confident with the novel approach taken in re-designing the curriculum: to include a dedicated clinical skills programme, together with addition of the testing of clinical skills using the OSCE model. These curriculum changes were deemed to be highly appropriate additions to the student experience in determination of skill performance of students prior to clinical placement.
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Keywords: clinical placement; dietetics; objective structured clinical examination; skills; student training; testing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, University College Chester, Parkgate Road, Chester, UK 2: Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen Margaret University College, Clerwood Terrace, Edinburgh, UK

Publication date: 2004-02-01

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