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

Med Teach. 2002 Mar;24(2):186-92. doi: 10.1080/01421590220125303.


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 7,202 patient encounter forms for patients with a musculoskeletal diagnosis, noting their confidence level and responsibilities. Of the 78,854 diagnoses presented, 7,850 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 patient 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.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Clerkship*
  • Competency-Based Education
  • Curriculum
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Students, Medical
  • United States