Top 5 clinical skills to learn EARLY on in medical school
Updated: Jun 29
1. How to scrub
Nothing hurts more than being on clinical placement and having the chance to scrub in and witness a surgery BUT YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO SCRUB! Some doctors and theatre staff will be more than happy to teach you - others...not so much!
YouTube videos are a great way to practice (not just scrubbing but many other clinical skills to).
2. How to take a history
Although you are formally taught how to take a history in medical school, it is great to get a head start and learn the list of important topics to cover before your clinical placements. Histories are the key to the investigative work of diagnosing patients and will be examined in OSCEs (Objective Structured Clinical Examinations).
This site has a good basis to start learning from. At King's, we are taught and expected to know how to take histories from Year 2 onwards.
3. How to take notes properly
Taking notes quickly and efficiently is the key to learning the large quantity of things you will be expected to in medical school.
Learning at GCSE and A-level are different to the studying you have to do at university. There isn’t a set mark scheme or clear and specific learning objectives on what you need to know. You are not chased up for not completing the required work and it is hard to get a hold of teachers and professors. Therefore, it is very important you know what type of teaching your medical school does. I attend King’s College London which has an integrated medical course. Majority of the course is a traditional style of teaching i.e. mainly lectures with some tutorials then case-based learning alongside clinical placements as you advance through medical school. There are a number of methods that you can use to take notes:
OneNote: allows you to tag and label notes, insert images and annotate.
Google Keep: great for clinical placement. Acts as an electronic notepad and allows you to jot down notes, group them together, colour code them and create tick-box tasks.
I advise that you attend lectures where you can but most universities record them and this can relieve time pressures for your note-taking.
4. Medical abbreviations
Medical abbreviations will be thrown at you throughout the entire degree so it’s best to get used to some of them early! Have a read of medical notes if accessible and permissible to do so. I use this site to look up anything I’m unfamiliar with.
5. How to use a stethoscope
It’s good to purchase a stethoscope and learn how to use it EARLY. Littmann stethoscopes are the best brand and I also purchased a case to carry it around in on placements. YouTube, again, is a fantastic resource to use to learn how to listen with the stethoscope and show you how to do simple things like what way to put the plugs in your ears and changing what side of the bell you’re listening to so you’re not feeling incompetent when it comes to using one in front of a future patient!