Clinical Skills Development

Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM) will introduce you to the basic clinical skills essential to the practice of medicine.  Some of these skills needed when working with individual patients include learning how to conduct a medical interview, perform a physical exam, and organize the data to reach a diagnosis, (often known as clinical reasoning).

As most of you know, medicine extends past the doctor-patient relationship.  Physicians frequently ask other health-care professionals for help or advice.  Physicians also frequently interact with other members of the community in which they work.

Over the next two years, this course will give you an introduction to:

  • the clinical skills you will need to effectively work with individual patients
  • the communication skills needed to communicate effectively with other physician and non-physician colleagues
  • the professional skills to help you better interact with patients, providers, and the community
  • the personal and professional skills needed to develop an understanding of the communities in which you will work

Since this will in many ways be your first step into clinical medicine, the course will also help you to develop the professionalism that is expected of all physicians.  Patients will disclose important, extremely personal aspects of their lives and concerns to you as they look to you for help and guidance.  It is important that you begin to appreciate the unique and privileged position that you will assume, even as a “student-doctor.”  Professionalism in medicine requires the physician to serve the interests of the patient above his or her self-interest.   Francis W. Peabody, a physician, made this exact point in an article published in 1927, while he was ill. In “The Care of the Patient,” he reminds us that “the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient”, (i.e., to serve your patients’ health needs, remember to place them first and truly desire to be with them, care for them, and keep their desires and needs at the forefront of your care). Often to soon do we physicians forget this lesson and it is a good idea to remind ourselves of it every so often.

Professionalism aspires to altruism, accountability, excellence, duty, service, honor, integrity, and respect for others.  This course involves learning basic concepts that underlie these skills, but for the most part this will not be information that you acquire in lectures or by memorizing lists.  Instead, you will learn these skills primarily through hands-on practice in small groups that emphasize teamwork and through reflection on the learning process.  Remember that this course is only just the beginning of a lifelong process. Have patience and try to enjoy the learning process even as you might feel uncomfortable and less than competent.  Be open to receiving feedback and learning more about yourself.