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Students’ PEARLS: successfully incorporating evidence-based medicine in medical students’ clinical attachments
  1. Martin R Stockler, MBBS, MSc, FRACP,
  2. Lyn March, MBBS, PhD, FRACP, FAFPHM,
  3. Richard I Lindley, MBBS, MD, FRCP(Edin), FRACP,
  4. Craig Mellis, MBBS, MPH, FRACP
  1. 1University of Sydney
  2. 2Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Teaching evidence-based medicine (EBM) to medical students can be tough, and even the most enthusiastic champions of EBM concede that many medical students emerge unconvinced of EBM’s value. Some students “just don’t get it”; others see EBM as idealistic, impractical, and unable to hurdle the barriers of limited time, evidence, and generalisability. Students want quick and simple answers to myriad questions, which are often more complicated than they seem. But EBM and its teaching were initially devised for qualified doctors already accustomed to the subtleties and vagaries of clinical practice; its answers are rarely quick or simple.

We developed PEARLS (Presentations of Evidence Abstracted from Research Literature to Solve real people’s problems) with these considerations in mind. We designed PEARLS for medical students who were starting clinical attachments in the third year of a 4-year programme and who had already been taught the principles and basic skills of EBM during their first 2 years. Our rationale was that a positive experience with a simple, efficient model for applying EBM in clinical practice would encourage its subsequent use.

PEARLS are 15-minute presentations given by students addressing a focused clinical question raised by their contact with a real patient during a recent clinical attachment. Clinical attachments last 4 weeks and are to various medical, surgical, and emergency units in university teaching hospitals. Students are rostered to do 1 PEARLS presentation during the first few months of year 3, but they can …

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