• Vol. 37 No. 1, 3–8
  • 15 January 2008

Clinical Skills in Final-year Medical Students: The Relationship between Self-reported Confidence and Direct Observation by Faculty or Residents



Introduction: Many students, while performing clinical skills such as medical interviewing/ communication, physical examination, and procedural tasks, have never been observed by faculty members or residents. This study aimed to explore the relationships between final-year medical students’ self-reported confidence and the frequency of direct observation by faculty member or resident while conducting these clinical skills.

Materials and Methods: Medical students at China Medical University in Taiwan participated in the survey. Before graduating, they were asked to answer a questionnaire about (1) their confidence in performing 17 clinical skills including medical interviewing/communication, physical examination, and procedural tasks, and (2) the number of times they had been directly observed by faculty members or residents during student-patient encounters.

Results: Many students reported never having been observed by a faculty member while they performed history taking/communication (46% to 84%), physical examination (36% to 42%), or procedural tasks (41% to 81%). It was found that residents had observed the students more frequently than the faculty members. The correlations between self-reported confidence and the corresponded direct observation were small to medium but significant. However, no difference was found between observation by a faculty member and by a resident.

Conclusions: This study confirmed that many medical students have not been directly observed in clinical training; and that those who were observed more often, expressed more self-reported confidence. Some assessment measures, which focus on direct observation and feedback during student-patient encounters, may improve the students’ confidence.

In clinical medical education, instructors train students in their medical knowledge and clinical skills. Medical educators also aspire to develop students’ self-confidence in medical practice.

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