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What Is an Internal Medicine Clerkship?

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  • Written By: Clara Kedrek
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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An internal medicine clerkship is a part of the clinical education of students in certain health care fields. People studying to become medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, and physician assistants all might participate in internal medicine clerkships as part of their training programs. The clerkship exposes students to the field of internal medicine, providing them information that might help them to decide if they want to pursue this career path. Students learn how to take care of adult diseases, many of which affect numerous systems of the body. Although an internal medicine clerkship often takes place in a hospital setting, in other cases students could undertake this educational experience in an outpatient setting.

One main purpose of an internal medicine clerkship is to expose students to the discipline of internal medicine, and help them to decide if this might be a field of study they want to pursue. Internal medicine focuses on providing general health care to adults. Doctors who study internal medicine can be general practitioners, and take care of patients in inpatient and outpatient settings. They could also specialize in fields such as cardiology, hematology, or infectious disease, thus helping to manage more complicated diseases in these fields. Although doctors who study internal medicine can perform some interventional procedures, they do not perform surgeries.

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Commonly, an internal medicine clerkship might take place in a hospital setting. Often a team of doctors and students take care of a group of patients. The team is often led by an attending doctor, who is often a professor or instructor associated with the medical school attended by the students. During the clerkship, the students learn how to obtain histories from patients, do physical exams, interpret laboratory data, understand results from radiologic studies, and design plans outlining how to best treat patients. They also learn other valuable skills, such as how to make oral presentations and how to professionally interact with real patients.

In other cases, an internal medicine clerkship could take place in an outpatient setting, such as a clinic. A student might be paired with a physician, working closely with this professional while seeing patients coming in for their clinic visits. Working in the outpatient setting teaches students how to manage chronic conditions, as opposed to working in the hospital, where they learn how to treat acute medical problems. Many of the other skills gained from an outpatient clerkship would be similar to an inpatient experience.

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