Background and objectives: Little is known about the relationship between the length of a family medicine clerkship and its educational outcomes. After our family medicine clerkship time decreased from 6 weeks to 4 weeks in July 1997, we studied how this change in clerkship length affected educational outcomes.
Methods: Educational outcomes for the 2-year periods before and after the change were examined and compared whenever possible. Outcome measurements included student ratings of different aspects of the clerkship and student performance on clerkship examinations.
Results: Students' exposure to common clinical problems was unaffected by the change. For the 4-week clerkship, there was a slight increase in student ratings of the adequacy of number of patients seen, the opportunity to follow-up with patients, the ability to develop health promotion plans, and overall satisfaction. Because the combinations of examinations used differed each year, student performance on clerkship examinations could not be directly compared.
Conclusions: Educational outcomes of the 4-week clerkship were similar to the 6-week clerkship. A few key outcomes improved. Various curricular and structural changes instituted for the 4-week clerkship contributed to the stability in outcomes. Reports from other medical schools may give additional insight into understanding this relationship.