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Do Pre-Clinical Experiences Adequately Prepare Students for Their Pediatrics Clerkship: A Needs Assessment to Inform Curricular Development



Medical schools teach a broad overview of basic science and clinical skills in the first 2 years of medical school, with a focus on adult medicine. There is limited emphasis on childhood disease and interactions with children. Previous data illustrated pediatric clerkship directors perceive student preparedness for the pediatric clerkship to be inconsistent. We aimed to examine how pre-clinical experiences prepare medical students for their pediatric clerkship by creating a needs assessment to inform curriculum development.


An anonymous survey was administered to 525 medical students completing their third year pediatrics rotations at four medical schools. Using a 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) scale, students rated their perception of how well their first 2 years of medical school prepared them for: the clerkship (overall), pediatric communication skills, age-appropriate physical exam skills, and pediatric-specific medical knowledge.


Thirty-three percent (33%) of respondents felt their pre-clinical education inadequately prepared them for their pediatric clerkship overall and 40% reported inadequate preparation for pediatric physical examination skills. Open-ended responses were qualitatively categorized into themes. The most frequent theme was a need for more pediatric-specific medical knowledge with the next highlighting more pediatric physical exam training.


One third or more of students in our study reported feeling inadequately prepared for their pediatric clerkship based on the first 2 years of medical school in several key competency areas, especially physical examination skills. Although variability in student responses exists between schools, these results suggest improvements in pre-clinical pediatric education are needed.

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Fig. 1



Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics


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We would like to acknowledge the members of the Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics (COMSEP) for their support for this study.

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Correspondence to Melissa R. Held.

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The Institutional Review Board at each participating institution provided study exemption.


There was no grant support or funding for this study.

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Held, M.R., Gibbs, K., Lewin, L.O. et al. Do Pre-Clinical Experiences Adequately Prepare Students for Their Pediatrics Clerkship: A Needs Assessment to Inform Curricular Development. Med.Sci.Educ. 27, 515–521 (2017).

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  • Medical student
  • Pediatric clerkship
  • Pre-clinical