Purpose: Medical students are traditionally taught the physical exam as a comprehensive battery of maneuvers, yet they express uncertainty about which maneuvers are “core” and should be performed routinely on patients and which ones should be performed only when clinically indicated. The authors sought to determine whether educator consensus existed on the concept and the specifics of a core physical exam for students.
Method: The authors developed a 45-maneuver core physical exam to be performed by a medicine clerkship student on every newly admitted patient, with the expectation that it would be supplemented by clinically indicated additional maneuvers. From 2011 to 2012 they sent surveys to physical diagnosis course directors (PDCDs) and internal medicine clerkship directors (IMCDs) from all 132 U.S. allopathic medical schools to determine the extent of their agreement with the proposed 45 maneuvers and their opinions about the concept of a core exam.
Results: Seventy-one percent (94/132) of PDCDs and 63% (83/132) of IMCDs responded to the survey. In total, 84% (111/132) of all schools surveyed were represented by either their PDCD or IMCD. Of the 45 proposed maneuvers, 37 were deemed “core” by a majority of respondents. The majority of IMCDs preferred a slightly leaner 37-maneuver core exam than the majority of PDCDs, who voted for 41 maneuvers.
Conclusions: Among PDCDs and IMCDs, there was openness to teaching medical students a streamlined core physical exam to which other maneuvers are added as clinically indicated. These educators closely agreed on the maneuvers this core exam should include.