Early clinical exposure as a highly interesting educational program for undergraduate medical students: an interventional study

BMC Med Educ. 2023 May 1;23(1):292. doi: 10.1186/s12909-023-04244-x.


Background: Training professional medical experts is so much dependent on the efficacy of the medical curriculum. Bearing this in mind, we aimed to evaluate the attitude of the undergraduate medical students toward the Early clinical exposure (ECE) program as a facilitator transition to the clinical phase.

Methods: This quasi-experimental study was conducted on undergraduate medical students at the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran who were transferring from the pre-clinical course to the externship course from 2021 to 2022 by census method (i.e. all eligible students were included and no sampling was performed). An eight-session ECE intervention was performed on the participants by two professors of the Internal medicine department of Ghaem Hospital, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran. The participants' attitude toward the program and the program quality was assessed with the valid and reliable scale developed by Mirzazadeh et al. (Cronbach's alpha = 0.72). Statistical analyses were performed by SPSS software (version.16) with a statistically significant level of less than 0.05.

Results: A total of 118 undergraduate medical students were enrolled in the study. Our results revealed that this program could familiarize (n = 95,81.2%)the students with the role of basic sciences knowledge in clinical settings, and 104(88.9%) participants believed that this intervention could motivate them toward learning more. The data revealed that this program was highly interesting for international students. There was a significant differentiation between Iranian and international students in familiarity with doctoring skills in medicine(P < 0.001), familiarity with the roles and responsibilities of clinical students(P < 0.001), and utility of early clinical exposure and providing more experiences(P < 0.001). According to the students' reports, the major strengths of the program were familiarizing themselves with the clinical fields, having excellent instructors, and performing admirable training. On the other hand, the major weakness of the program was the short duration and the high population of participants in each group.

Conclusions: The ECE program had a positive impact on the students' satisfaction with medical education, and it also enhanced their understanding of the role they will play as future physicians. Therefore, we recommend that this program be implemented as a part of the medical education curriculum in medical universities.

Keywords: Attitude; Curriculum; Learning; Medical Education; Medical students.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate* / methods
  • Humans
  • Iran
  • Learning
  • Students, Medical*