Purpose: To examine the immediate and delayed impact of an intensive one- or two-day interclerkship on substance abuse (SA) for third-year medical students. The program is a response to the problem of inadequacy of substance abuse education in the standard curriculum.
Method: Each year since 1997–98 all third-year students at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have participated in a one- or two-day SA interclerkship to enhance their knowledge and competence with SA assessment and brief intervention. Students' knowledge, attitudes, and confidence were assessed immediately before and after the interclerkship. In addition, during 1998–99, each student's clinical skills in SA assessment and intervention were evaluated at the completion of the student's six-week psychiatry clerkship using objective standardized clinical examinations (OSCEs) with two simulated patients, one with and one without active SA issues. Students who took the psychiatry clerkship in the first half of the year had not yet participated in the interclerkship. Students' pooled performances before and after the interclerkship were compared.
Results: Students' attitudes toward and knowledge about SA disorders and their confidence about SA assessment and intervention all showed significant positive changes immediately after the interclerkship. The OSCE performance data demonstrated a significant sustained improvement in clinical skills in SA assessment and intervention as measured up to six months following the interclerkship.
Conclusion: These data suggest that brief intensive training in SA during the clinical years of medical school can have a positive and lasting impact on students' clinical performances.