The essential neurologic examination: what should medical students be taught?

Neurology. 2009 Jun 9;72(23):2020-3. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181a92be6.


Background: Graduating medical students often identify the neurologic examination (NE) as one of the clinical skills with which they are least comfortable. We hypothesized that this is because they are unsure about which elements of the NE are important, and conducted a study 1) to identify whether neurologists agree about the essential elements of the NE and 2) to determine whether the views of medical students about what is essential differ from those of neurologists.

Methods: Using a Delphi process, we asked McGill University neurologists which elements of the NE they would perform at least 80% of the time in a common clinical scenario. We confirmed the results in a sample of Canadian neurologists, and then compared the results of the McGill neurologists to a sample of graduating McGill University medical students.

Results: The neurologists surveyed rated 22 items of the NE as essential, and there was a high degree of consensus about which items were essential. Medical student ratings of the importance of NE items were largely similar to those of the neurologists, although there were some noteworthy discrepancies.

Conclusions: The anxiety felt by medical students regarding the neurologic examination (NE) seems unlikely to be solely due to uncertainty about which elements of the NE are important. Expert consensus about the essential elements of the NE and awareness of areas where neurologist and student views differ should be used to guide teaching of the NE.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Data Collection
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards
  • Expert Testimony
  • Humans
  • Neurologic Examination / methods
  • Neurologic Examination / psychology
  • Neurologic Examination / standards
  • Neurology / education*
  • Observer Variation
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Schools, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Schools, Medical / trends
  • Teaching / methods
  • Teaching / standards