Teaching Clinical Skills on Campus


Campus Skills Centre-based sessions precede hospital sessions and so it is in this setting that communication, physical examination and procedural skills will first be introduced, taught and practised. Practice occurs amongst peers (i.e. fellow students) and with Simulated Patients in this setting.  These are widespread, acceptable and efficacious means of acquiring these skills

The campus-based sessions are taught by a clinician tutor at a dedicated Skills Centre. These sessions are for students in Phase 1 of the UNSW Medicine Program, as well as for a small cohort of Graduate Entry students on their Bridging Course.

The aim of the sessions is to integrate learning across a variety of clinical skills, which include taking a medical history, physical examination skills and certain procedural skills specific to this level of training. Simultaneously, students develop effective patient interaction by learning and practicing appropriate communication skills. The focus is on the student gaining an understanding of the problem from the perspective of the patient. Students have an opportunity to reinforce and practice all these skills when they see patients in Simulated Patient sessions and with real patients in the hospital. Hospital sessions occur in the week after campus sessions.

In Phase 1, Clinical Skills sessions are 2 hours duration. There are 3 sessions per student per teaching period and 4 teaching periods each year. See Administrative matters below for more details.

Being a Clinical Tutor for Campus Clinical Skills Sessions

Teaching Clinical Skills

In most teaching periods the focus of the three sessions, from the clinical perspective, is the physical examination of one body system. In addition, non-invasive procedural skills related to that body system might also feature. In general, the first two sessions provide time for an expert demonstration of the examination/procedure, followed by ‘deconstruction’ of it, with questioning of/from students, followed by a period of student practice. Students practise on and with each other in a process called Peer Physical Examination (PPE). Literature supports PPE being a widespread and acceptable means by which students acquire basic physical examination skills. The third session is usually dedicated to Simulated Patient (SP) interactions, in which students rotate through interactions.  Feedback is provided by tutors, senior students, demonstrators and SPs.

Consequently, from the perspective of physical examination and procedures, clinical tutors may perform expert demonstrations, discuss each aspect of the examination or procedural skill and be prepared to answer students’ questions about it. Please note that this does not mean you need to be a specialist with respect to the body system being taught (see note regarding Guides below). Another important role of the clinical tutor is to provide specific and detailed feedback to individual students when they are practising, including on their interactional communication skills with patients.

a. Tutor and Student Guides
The physical examination in Phase 1 (and at Graduate Entry level) is deliberately limited. Junior medical students require certain boundaries to the examination in order to prevent them being overwhelmed. For example, examination of a body system, at this level, often excludes most peripheral aspects. Consequently, in order to make such boundaries clear to students (but also to tutors), a detailed Clinical Skills Guide is produced. Furthermore, for each teaching period a Tutor Guide is written, and revised each year (in response to feedback). The Tutor Guide details the exact activities which are suggested for a session, along with approximate timing. The guide covers all three sessions, and also includes the information for the hospital sessions which students attend the week after their campus session. This helps both campus and hospital tutors to understand what has gone before and/or follows each session.

b. Communications skills teaching
Clinical tutors are expected to explicity address communications skills. In some sessions, this simply means that the session starts or finishes with activities related to these skills specifically. The remainder of the session then comprises clinical material. Students sometimes appear to deem communication skills to be inferior or of lesser importance to the skills of procedures and physical examination, we expect tutors to quash that errorneous notion and help students to understand how fundamental communication skills are to good and safe patient / consultation outcomes.


Administrative matters and selection process (clinical tutor)

  • You will be a medically qualified person with significant clinical experience.
  • You do not have to have qualified in Australia, nor do you do not have to be registered for practice – or currently be practising – in Australia, but this is desirable.
  • You will have an interest in, and experience of, teaching medical students (at undergraduate/graduate or postgraduate level).
  • Formal qualifications in (medical) education are desirable, but not required.

As a Phase 1 Clinical Skills (CS) clinical tutor, you will be expected to teach at least one session (2 hours duration) per fortnight, but preferably would take a session each week, thus working with a second group of students on the alternating weeks. Since each group of students has 3 sessions per teaching period, a ‘full set’ of Clinical Skills sessions for the tutor is (groups of students = 2 x 3 sessions per student =) 6 sessions per teaching period. There are 4 teaching periods each year of Phase 1, thus there are 8 teaching periods, all of which include Clinical Skills sessions. See the Academic Calendar for exact dates (be sure to look at the Medicine section). In general, you will be expected to commit to at least one full academic year of tutoring.

Sessions with Graduate Entry students occur only in Semester 2 and the Summer Teaching Period. These students receive one session per week for a total of 20 weeks in these teaching periods. These are usually taught ‘in house’ but may become available from time to time.

Phase 1 students have a Clinical Skills Examination at the end of Year 2 which consists of a 6 by 15 minute station OSCE; Graduate Entry students are examined at the end of the Summer Teaching Period. Clinical tutors are strongly encouraged to act as examiners for this assessment task. More information on Phase 1 examinations: : http://medprogram.med.unsw.edu.au/exams-phase-1.

Vacancies for a CS tutor role are usually known by mid-December each year. However, you can submit an Expression of Interest at any time to the Convener of Clinical Skills (Clinical) by email. If vacancies are open, the selection process takes place in January and February. If we believe you would be potentially suitable for the role, you will be offered an interview. Interviews are supplemented with a demonstration of teaching component; the latter usually a simple procedural skill, which you will be informed about prior to the interview.

Successful candidates are then offered employment as an Academic Staff (Casual) tutor on a clinical scale of pay (earning code 178). See Human Resources for the current hourly rate (each session is 3 hours duration).

  • If you are medically qualified and interested in becoming a clinical skills tutor, please contact the Convener of the Clinical Element of Clinical Skills by email