How to Prepare Mentally
Any examination can be anxiety provoking. Having to demonstrate clinical skills in front of observers can be particularly stressful. The best way to prepare for the OSCE is to have the attitude that this an opportunity to demonstrate how much you have learned, and a chance to identify areas where you might need more practice or help. It is an opportunity to practice being a doctor in a protected environment – students who go into the OSCEs with an intention to learn and enjoy themselves end up performing the best.
Get some rest the night before. Just like the first day of a new rotation, it is best to be rested and alert. Flying into town on the morning of the exam or being on call the night before is not a good idea.
Finally…relax! Most students find the OSCEs to be fun once they relax and treat the patients like real patients.
What to Wear
Dress as you would if you were seeing patients in a doctor’s office or in a hospital. This means casual business attire.
What to bring
Come prepared with a stethoscope, and your own instruments such as a charged otoscope/ophthalmoscope, reflex hammer, pen and a blank notepad. You will not be allowed to refer to or use any pocket guides, cell phones, tablets, or other devices.
During the Exam
- The most important tip to succeed in the OSCEs is to treat the standardized patients like they are real patients coming to you for help. If you can immerse yourself into the clinical context and really focus on helping the person in front of you, you will do very well in the OSCEs.
- Read the station instructions carefully. Some stations ask students to only perform an exam or only take a history. Be sure you know what you are supposed to do before you go in the room.
- Always observe the basics of good communication when interacting with patients: introduce yourself with your name and position, confirm the patient’s name, wash / clean your hands, and ask open-ended questions to allow the patient to establish the agenda. Then start to focus on the information you need to figure out what is going on and help the patient. Be transparent in what you want to do and what you are thinking. Bring the interview to a smooth close.
- Remember to verbalize your thoughts and actions when asked or when otherwise appropriate. An observer or the patient may not be able to determine that you did a lung exam, for example, unless you say to the patient, “Your lungs are clear on both sides.”
After the Exam
Don’t share the content of the cases with your fellow students. Not all students receive exactly the same cases, and occasionally we purposefully alter case findings/presentations over the course of the exam.