Open Access Research article

Voluntary undergraduate technical skills training course to prepare students for clerkship assignment: tutees’ and tutors’ perspectives

Mats Blohm1, Markus Krautter2, Jan Lauter1, Julia Huber1, Peter Weyrich3, Wolfgang Herzog1, Jana Jünger1 and Christoph Nikendei14*

Author Affiliations

1 Department for General Internal and Psychosomatic Medicine, University Hospital of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany

2 Department of Nephrology, University Hospital of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany

3 Department of Internal Medicine IV (Diabetes, Endocrinology, Nephrology and Clinical Chemistry), University Hospital of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

4 Centre for Psychosocial Medicine, University of Heidelberg, University Hospital for General Internal and Psychosomatic Medicine, Thibautstrasse 2, Heidelberg 69115, Germany

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:71  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-71

Published: 4 April 2014



Skills lab training has become a widespread tool in medical education, and nowadays, skills labs are ubiquitous among medical faculties across the world. An increasingly prevalent didactic approach in skills lab teaching is peer-assisted learning (PAL), which has been shown to be not only effective, but can be considered to be on a par with faculty staff-led training. The aim of the study is to determine whether voluntary preclinical skills teaching by peer tutors is a feasible method for preparing medical students for effective workplace learning in clerkships and to investigate both tutees’ and tutors’ attitudes towards such an intervention.


A voluntary clerkship preparation skills course was designed and delivered. N = 135 pre-clinical medical students visited the training sessions. N = 10 tutors were trained as skills-lab peer tutors. Voluntary clerkship preparation skills courses as well as tutor training were evaluated by acceptance ratings and pre-post self-assessment ratings. Furthermore, qualitative analyses of skills lab tutors’ attitudes towards the course were conducted following principles of grounded theory.


Results show that a voluntary clerkship preparation skills course is in high demand, is highly accepted and leads to significant changes in self-assessment ratings. Regarding qualitative analysis of tutor statements, clerkship preparation skills courses were considered to be a helpful and necessary asset to preclinical medical education, which benefits from the tutors’ own clerkship experiences and a high standardization of training. Tutor training is also highly accepted and regarded as an indispensable tool for peer tutors.


Our study shows that the demand for voluntary competence-oriented clerkship preparation is high, and a peer tutor-led skills course as well as tutor training is well accepted. The focused didactic approach for tutor training is perceived to be effective in preparing tutors for their teaching activity in this context. A prospective study design would be needed to substantiate the results objectively and confirm the effectiveness.

Medical education; Peer assisted learning; Clerkship preparation; Tutor training; Clinical skills