The effect of incorporating women's health into a PBL curriculum on students' tendencies to identify learning issues in an ambulatory care setting

M A Kuzma, C L Rutenberg, E Gracely, L Z Nieman
Academic Medicine 1997, 72 (10): 913-5

PURPOSE: To investigate whether the incorporation of women's health into problem-based learning (PBL) cases affects students' tendency to identify learning issues related to women's health as they encounter patients in an ambulatory care setting.

METHOD: Students in the PBL curriculum at the Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, MCP-Hahnemann School of Medicine, participate in a nine-week primary care practicum at the end of their first year, during which they spend three half-days per week in an ambulatory setting examining patients and completing patient logs that include any learning issues identified. Patient logs from 23 first-year PBL students who had not been exposed to a new women's health education program prior to their practicum in 1993 and from 22 first-year PBL students who had been exposed to the program prior to their practicum in 1994 were reviewed. For each women's health learning issue identified, the sex of the student and the sex, specialty, and practice setting of the student's preceptor were recorded. Data were analyzed with several statistical methods.

RESULTS: There was no statistically significant difference in the numbers of men and women students or preceptors between the two years. In 1993 an average of 59% of the patients seen per student were women; in 1994 the average was 61%. The mean numbers of total learning issues identified (including women's health learning issues) were similar in the two years, but the mean percentage of clinical women's health learning issues identified increased significantly between 1993 and 1994, as did the mean percentage of community/preventive health women's health learning issues identified. There was a significant student-sex-by-preceptor-sex interaction for the total number of women's health learning issues identified (p = .024): for both years, the students paired with a preceptor of the same sex identified a higher number of women's health learning issues than did the students paired with a preceptor of the opposite sex.

CONCLUSION: The results suggest that PBL is an effective way to increase students' awareness of women's health issues in a primary care clinical setting. More studies are needed to define the effect of PBL on the kind of reading and learning students will do when they get to the clinical setting.

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