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10 tips to help you prepare for your Clinical Skills Assessment

Written by: Prospect Health
Published on: 19 Mar 2018

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Prospect Health offers tips for registrar GPs studying for the Clinical Skills Assessment element of the MRCGP examinations

Prospect Health Clinical Skills Assessment

Considered by some GPs to be the most nerve wracking part of the MRCGP examinations, the Clinical Skills Assessment is key to assessing your communication skills, clinical knowledge and the ability to apply these appropriately to general practice.

Learn how to approach the examination positively in preparation for life as a fully qualified GP using this quick guide:

1. Know what the exam involves - key things to expect include: 

  • You will face a variety of cases, some of which will involve children, others will test your prescribing knowledge
  • You will have a couple of minutes to review the cases before the consultations
  • The examiner will be present with the patient
  • You will be assessed on three areas: data gathering, clinical management and interpersonal skills

2. Allow ample time to practise different scenarios

  • Be prepared to start studying nine months before the exam so you can practise as many scenarios as possible
  • Bring together a study group and take it in turns to play the role of patient, doctor and examiner so that you can get used to being observed
  • Be imaginative and play out different types of patients, for example a child, an elderly person, a timid patient, an overly extravert patient, someone with arthritis, someone with insomnia, and so on

3. Obtain feedback

  • Obtain feedback whenever and wherever you get the opportunity
  • Feedback can come from your trainer or other GPs in your surgery
  • Video yourself and watch it back critically, watching out for body language and non-verbal cues from the patient

4. Observe senior GPs

  • Sit with more senior GPs or advanced nurse practitioners at your surgery and watch their consultations with patients
  • Observe how they describe particular conditions or how they demonstrate using specific remedies such as inhalers
  • Take their expertise and adapt it to your own style

5. Practise being professional

  • Be prepared for all manners of scenarios to play out in front of you when your patient walks in
  • Some patients may be feeling embarrassed, upset or distressed about their condition so you need to be ready to talk to them in a knowledgeable, compassionate and professional manner
  • Make a list of any topics you are unfamiliar with or feel uncomfortable discussing. Then research and practise them
  • You have a responsibility to your patients to be able to support them with whatever they may be facing so make sure you have the skills and knowledge to approach sensitive subjects with tact and diplomacy

6. Time yourself

  • In the exam you will have two minutes to read your case notes and 10 minutes to consult
  • Your pass mark will reflect your ability to keep to the time allocated, regardless of what scenario you’re faced with
  • Get familiar with the structure of the exam and start practising it around three months prior to the exam
  • Many of the elements that take up time in real life, such as typing up, referrals and investigation, are eliminated in the exam, so use the 10 minutes in your ‘real life’ consultations and the extra time for your admin

7. Be specific

  • You need to be specific in all areas of your consultation
  • When data gathering, ask specific questions about your patient’s condition and history - don’t be vague, show the examiner you understand the condition and you know exactly what you need to determine the necessary next steps
  • Rather than using words like ‘urgent’, specify time frames like ‘24 hours’ or ‘two weeks’ - both could be described as urgent but the amount of time could in fact make a big difference

8. Examine

  • Be prepared to examine the patient as normal, even though examination is only required in two or three stations (usually MSK/ENT/cranial nerves)
  • The examiner will give you the results
  • Be aware that if you don’t state that you are going to examine the patient, the examiner will not give you the results

9. Follow a clear structure

  • Following a clear structure will get you through any scenario
  • It will also give you confidence and help you offer a patient-centred service
  • Check out the BradfordVTS website for a list of books that can help with this

10. Keep calm and carry on

  • Don’t let a bad case ricochet and affect your work on the next one
  • Take the two minutes before meeting your next patient to re-group, catch your breath and do the best job you can for the next person that walks through the door
  • You can still pass even if you don’t completely finish a scenario, so get through as much as you can knowing you can still score well even if you don’t finish

This article is based on Prospect Health’s blog post: MRCGP Examinations - preparing for your Clinical Skills Assessment

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