Objective: To evaluate the effects of the early introduction of clinical skills teaching on students' learning following an overhaul of the curriculum of a traditional Asian medical school.
Methods: Randomly selected medical students in Year I and II were invited to participate in 30 focus group interviews while all students were asked to assist with the questionnaire survey. Most students were contacted personally to help them understand the objectives of the study. Confidentiality was emphasised and a non-faculty interviewer was recruited for the interviews.
Results: Two hundred and eight of Year I/Year II students attended the lunchtime focus group interviews (response rate=86.7%) while 252 (73.5%) students returned the questionnaire. The majority of them (87%) agreed or strongly agreed that it was good to introduce clinical skills in the early years of the curriculum. They reflected that the course enhanced their learning interest and made them feel like doctors. They also made many constructive suggestions on how the course could be improved during the interactive focus group interviews so that the negative effects could be minimised.
Conclusion: It is useful to introduce clinical skills in the early years of a medical curriculum. A comprehensive course evaluation, using both quantitative and qualitative methods, helps to collect useful information on how the course can be improved.