Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Europhysiology 2018 (London, UK) (2018) Proc Physiol Soc 41, PCA085

Poster Communications

Assessing the value and impact of physiology in an integrated curriculum

T. J. ALLEN1, S. Riley1, S. Hall2

1. School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom. 2. School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom.


Allen T.J. ^, Riley S. ^ and Hall, S.K.* ^School of Medicine and *School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Wales, UK A new fully-integrated medical curriculum, designed and delivered through case-based learning, was introduced in Cardiff in 2013-14 (Hassoulas et al., 2017). This approach allows scientists and clinicians to work together to ensure that students' understanding of basic science and clinical skills are developed in a cohesive manner. Core physiological concepts and principles are embedded into clinical thinking, however, there is a danger that the discipline could lose its identity within an integrated curriculum and that, as a result, students may fail to recognise its fundamental nature as a foundation of medicine. We aimed to evaluate the impact of integrating physiology into the curriculum by investigating the opinions of the first cohort of students to graduate from our new programme. Students' perceptions were collected anonymously using an online survey delivered on return from elective study towards the end of the final year. The survey contained both closed and open questions addressing students' opinions of physiology teaching, learning opportunities and the value of physiology. The study was conducted in accordance with published guidelines for educational research (BERA, 2011). 62 responses were received (20% of cohort); of these, 73% (n=45) did not have a science degree before enrolling on the medical course. Although, in principle, the clinical and preclinical phases are fully integrated, physiology appeared to be visible to students only in the early years of the curriculum. 92% (n=57) of students identified a strong component of physiology in Year 1, but this fell to 13% (n=8) in Year 3 and 0% in Year 5. However, students recognised the wide range of environments in which they learned physiology and the range of staff who taught them across diverse applications of the discipline. 87% of respondents (n=54) reported that they had also worked independently to consolidate these learning opportunities. Although only 69% (n=43) of the respondents considered that basic science would be an important component of their future practice, 100% (n=62) judged that knowledge of basic physiology is important in understanding the symptoms, process and treatment of disease. These results show that our students value physiology as a keystone of their medical training and recognise its relevance to their clinical practice. However, despite the integrated nature of the course, the distinction between pre-clinical and clinical study appears to prevail. The perceived lack of physiology in the later undergraduate years suggests that this element needs to be made more explicit or enhanced. This study will be helpful in guiding future development of our own curriculum and could be used more widely to inform development of integrated medical curricula at other institutions.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements