Dr Reina Abraham supervising a Medical student
at the Clinical Skills Laboratory.

A study conducted by a Senior Tutor of Clinical Skills at UKZN’s Medical School has revealed a need to standardise and enhance ways in which clinicians and tutors give feedback to students in clinical training.

Dr Reina Abraham evaluated the quality and use of feedback on clinical performance during the clinical skills logbook sessions which third-year Medical students undergo.

She felt that feedback to clinical learners about their performance was crucial for their development into competent clinicians yet most feedback was provided by clinicians who had little or no formal training for this aspect of their teaching role.

‘Effective feedback is dependent on several factors such as type, content, quality, timing, clarity, complexity and language used,’ said Abraham. ‘Limited research in clinical training has focused on the multicultural Medical students’ perceptions of feedback and its influence on the students’ learning.’

A total of 183 third year MBChB students and their five clinical skills tutors participated in the study.

Abraham said giving students consistent and standardised feedback about their strengths and weaknesses was likely to increase their confidence, self-esteem, motivation and enthusiasm for learning as well as develop their skills of self-assessment to enable them to recognise their own strengths and weaknesses and areas for development.

‘It is important that tutors give students a standardized feedback on how they are performing within their clinical placements and this feedback process should be consistent across all tutors as this will ensure that the students are appropriately supported and a fair process of assessment is carried out.’ 

Clinical skills training forms an important part of the undergraduate problem-based Medical education curriculum during the first three pre-clinical years. ‘It is important for undergraduate Medical students to acquire basic clinical competence in interviewing (communication techniques) and physical examination skills early in Medical education in order to adopt correct behaviours in approaching patients’ problems.’

Abraham said the early introduction of clinical skills helped students to be well prepared and more comfortable in performing patient assessment during their clerkship years.

She presented her research findings at the recently held College of Health Sciences Research Symposium, winning a prize of R15 000 towards attending a national conference of her choice.

‘I was speechless and at the same time felt ecstatic, honored and humbled by the recognition. I’m very proud of the fact that all the hard work and co-ordination with my supervisor paid off.’

Abraham said she looked forward to taking this research forward to the next level for her PhD.

Her supervisor, Dr Veena Singaram, Academic Leader Research in the School of Clinical Medicine, said: ‘Dr Abraham has conducted her study with a lot of enthusiasm and dedication as she is committed to enhancing the clinical training of our students. Her study highlights the value and importance of providing appropriate effective feedback to improve the clinical examination skills to our undergraduate Medical students’.