Teaching clinical skills by utilising community patient volunteers – a program evaluation

Margo Lane, Geoff Mitchell, Phil Towers, Amy Wong


Introduction: The newly established Ipswich regional campus of the University of Queensland School of Medicine experienced difficulty in accessing inpatients for clinical skills teaching during its initial two years of operation. The community patient volunteer (CPV) program was developed to address this problem. Volunteers with significant past medical histories or clinical signs were recruited from the local community and rostered to attend tutorials on campus several times per year. Students practised history taking, physical examination and developed clinical reasoning skills, under the guidance of their clinician tutor. An evaluation of this program was undertaken.

Methods: Questionnaires were disseminated to Ipswich students and volunteers from 2010 and 2011. The surveys explored students’ views of the program compared with hospital-based bedside teaching, and volunteers reflected on their participation. Student performance on Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) was compared between the base and regional cohorts.

Results: Students and volunteers reported benefits from participation in the CPV program. The results of the Ipswich students’ Year 2 OSCE in 2010 and 2011 were similar to the results of the Brisbane cohort, with a significant positive difference in favour of the Ipswich students in the areas of history taking and communication skills for 2011.

Discussion & Conclusions: Student learning was not disadvantaged by the use of the CPV program and may have been enhanced. Volunteers reported personal gains from participation. 


clinical skills teaching; community volunteers; volunteer patients; medical students

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/fohpe.v16i3.84


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