Students' perceptions of early patient encounters in a PBL curriculum: a first evaluation of the Maastricht experience.Med Teach. 2007 Mar; 29(2-3):135-42.MT
Real patient encounters before the clinical phase of undergraduate medical education are recommended to stimulate integration of theory and practice. Such encounters are not easy to integrate into the three phases of the problem-based learning cycle, i.e. preparation, self-study and reporting. The authors studied students' perceptions of problem-based learning with real patient encounters as the starting point for learning.
Students' perceptions of the programme with real patients were evaluated by means of a questionnaire. Mean item scores on a five-point Likert scale and 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
Students showed satisfaction with the patient encounters and said they learned a lot from them. Reporting was also highly rated, particularly the integration of theory and practice. Preparation and self-study received lower scores.
The findings support the view that real patient encounters can act as a powerful driving force for learning and enhance integration of theory and practice. Student learning might benefit from: better information to students and teachers regarding educational objectives, teacher training and careful selection of patients. In order to gain more insight into learning from patient encounters, further studies should address students' and teachers' views and behaviours in respect of this type of learning.