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Diagnostic testing begins with a thorough, yet hypothesis-driven history (1st line of testing) and physical examination (2nd line of testing). When utilized thoughtfully in conjunction with a good history, the physical exam enables the physician to effectively complete his/her bedside diagnostic repertoire. These first two lines of bedside diagnostic testing can then, in turn, help inform/guide the physician to pursue additional testing (3rd line) in a more purposeful and well-reasoned manner. This course is designed to improve the quality of students' physical examination skills by way of (1) enhancing their ability to recognize, describe, and interpret physical exam findings and (2) developing their basic skills in interpretation of diagnostic test characteristics.

Elective Details:

Primary Contact for Add/Drops: T. Robert Vu, MD ( tvu@iu.edu)

Director: T. Robert Vu, M.D.

Campus: Indianapolis

Location: Eskenazi Health Services, Roudebush VA Medical Center, and IU Health University Hospital (Indianapolis)

Learning Objectives

  • 1) Define and describe basic phenotypic expressions of common diseases (which manifest as abnormal physical signs) (MK3)

  • 2) Describe and demonstrate common physical examination techniques (PC1)
  • 3) Interpret the significance of physical examination findings (both positive and negative) as they apply to the clinical situation, enabling the students to hone their critical assessment skills (PC3)
  • 4) Identify the historical beginnings behind some of the various physical findings and their associated medical conditions and, if pertinent, the beginnings and evolution of the diagnostic tool(s) used (e.g., stethoscope) (PC1)
  • 5) Refine students´┐Ż clinical communication skills, in both oral and written forms, to accurately describe physical exam findings for purposes of medical records documentation and verbal communications with colleagues (ISC5)
  • 6) Hone students´┐Ż skills in critical appraisal of primary literature about physical examination findings (PBLI-1)


  • Clinical Performance Evaluation Form 1. Clinical Evaluation (course director and faculty/chief resident preceptors will serve as evaluators) a. Bedside performance of physical exam techniques b. Review of documentation skills on physical exam findings c. End-of-rotation OSCE using Harvey simulator for heart sounds 2. Performance on topic presentations (course director, appropriate teaching faculty, and peers will serve as evaluators; see evaluation rubric below under assessment tools section) 3. Participation in small group discussions (course director and appropriate teaching faculty will serve as evaluators)

Enrollment Information

Prerequisites: 4th year status

Availability with Max Students per Month:


Duty Hours: 30

Time Distribution: 40% Clinical; 45% Lecture/Seminar; 15% Library/Research

Elective Type Category: CP - Clinical Practice

Notes and Enrollment Information:

Add/Drop Contact Person: T. Robert Vu, MD ( tvu@iu.edu) Maximum of 6 students. Please note: If rotating at the VA, credentialing is required. VA credentialing is a complex and time-sensitive process.

Third Year Elective? No

Interprofessional Skills and Service Learning

Interprofessional Collaborative Skills: Yes

Skills Description:

one session dedicated to rounding with wound care nurse specialist.

Service Learning Included: None