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Correspondence: Dr Tiong Thung Sing, firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction In medical practice, some patients consult doctors for reassurance of normality, e.g. patients with throat discomfort. Therefore, medical graduates should be competent in diagnosing clinical normality. One way to assess clinical competence is by the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).
Methods In 2002-2006, five batches of medical students who completed their otorhinolaryngology posting in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak were examined with the same OSCE question on clinically normal vocal cords. There were five subquestions concerning structures, clinical features, diagnosis and management. All students had prior slide show sessions regarding normal and abnormal laryngeal conditions.
Results The total number of students in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 was 25, 41, 20, 30 and 16, respectively, and 100 percent responded. The average percentage of students with correct answers was 19.4, 2.4, 2.2, 21.2, and 2.4, in the subquestions 0.1 to 0.5, respectively, leaving the remaining relatively larger percentages with incorrect answers of various clinical abnormalities. A reason for these findings is examination fever by the students, who also assumed that all the stations had clinical abnormalities and required differentiating abnormalities from abnormalities, and not from normality. Without clinical normality OSCE questions, the assessment of the undergraduates' clinical competence in real life would seem incomplete.
Conclusion This study showed that a significantly large percentage of students answered incorrectly in the clinical normality OSCE. This may mean that more clinical normality OSCE questions should be included in the undergraduate medical examination to help undergraduates practise the need to look for, and become competent in, clinical normality in real life.
Keywords: clinical normality, medical course, medical education, medical student, undergraduate examination
Singapore Med J 2008; 49(4):328-332