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Medical studies: new clinical practical year takes shape

(Vienna, 13th March 2013, APA) The joint clinical practical year (CPY), which follows courses in medicine and which begins on 1st August 2014 at all three of Austria’s medical universities, is beginning to take shape. It comprises a total of 48 weeks, 16 of which must be completed in teaching hospitals in the departments of Internal Medicine and Surgery (including perioperative disciplines). The remainder of the rotations can be chosen by the graduates themselves and can also be spent in general practitioners' surgeries. During the 2013/14 academic year at the MedUni Vienna, there will be a transition year in which practical places for two courses - the last of the old study curriculum and the first of the new one - will be required.

“The increased teaching of expertise in clinical skills has now become the international norm,” said the MedUni Vienna's Vice-Rector, Karin Gutiérrez-Lobos, at a press conference on Tuesday. This is being safeguarded by the new CPY. Unlike the previous curriculum, which did include periods of practical study combined with seminars, the students in their final year of study will be given truly hands-on, realistic training. “They are involved fully in hospital life for four months, including night shifts, and are completely integrated into the hospital’s everyday activities - from drinking coffee to ward rounds. This is very different to attending a clinical traineeship from eight until twelve,” said Gutiérrez-Lobos.

In this sixth and final study year, theoretical learning is complete, explained curriculum director Anita Rieder. There are no lectures or seminars, but students have to learn on a case-specific basis and are examined via an integrative approach. At the end of the CPY, according to Gutiérrez-Lobos, there is no major examination on all of the subjects covered in the course, but instead a type of “workplace-based assessment” is carried out that is intended to evaluate the final year of study. Gutiérrez-Lobos and Rieder are unwilling to draw a comparison of the practical elements between the old and new curricula – there is a considerable difference between whether students are spending entire days in hospitals or only completing a few hours of practical training alongside their seminars.

In Graz and Innsbruck, a clinical practical year already exists to a smaller extent. In Vienna, however, the course content for the fourth and fifth years of study needs to be changed over. This is leading to around 640 students in their fifth year of study (the first year of the new system) and sixth year of study (the last year of the old system) requiring practical placements at the same time in 2013/14, but not all of these are available in Vienna.

The solution chosen was for students in the first year of the new system to complete all of the ‘electives’ at the MedUni Vienna's existing teaching hospitals. The students in the final year of the old system are able to complete their electives in psychiatry, paediatrics and dermatology at the existing teaching hospitals too; however for electives in neurology, gynaecology, ophthalmology and ENT, students will need to look around for a place outside Vienna for a period of twelve weeks.

To facilitate this, cooperation agreements have been set up with numerous teaching hospitals in Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Carinthia. Electives can also be spent abroad, for example through the Erasmus programme, and the credits earned taken into account. Teaching hospitals need to satisfy certain criteria and offer further training events as well as mentors, for example. There are also places in Vienna for cases of hardship, such as students with children, tutors, students who are pregnant or students who work in Vienna.

Author: APA (aku/jle/pm)