First times

Presenting a clinical case

Location: UK
Audience: Junior doctors Medical students
Updated: Tuesday 20 July 2021
Topics: Your wellbeing
Advice for making maiden ward-round presentations bearable: do your homework, treat your patient as an individual and don't whatever else you do attempt to bluff it if you can't answer a question.

Presenting a clinical case on a ward round can be a harrowing experience. Not only are you under the scrutiny of your boss, the consultant, but it feels as if your performance is being judged by your medical student colleagues and the patient.

Part of the difficulty is reconciling the various roles that you have to assume. As the patient's medical attendant, you will be empathic, caring and clinically competent. Your relationships with your peers and superiors will be different.

There are several things that you can do to help you through the process:

  • thoroughly prepare yourself with the patient's history and details of their illness, and be prepared to field questions about related topics
  • explain to the patient what will be happening on the ward round
  • explain what your role will be
  • be aware there may well be questions about the patient's condition concerning issues that they might not have been aware of.

The way you relate to the patient is just as important as your clinical competence. Never address the patient in the third person and show that you have a real understanding of the patient as a person, not just somebody with a particular illness.

Don't be fazed by awkward questions or ones to which you do not know the answer. Be prepared to say you do not know something and that you will look in to the issue raised. Never be tempted to bluff. You can be sure that several of your colleagues would have been in a similar position with the same question.

The experience of presenting on a ward round will stand you in good stead for other presentations or talks that you will inevitably be asked to give throughout your medical career. It will also equip you with skills needed to respond effectively under pressure.

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