Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine


Focused Clinical Experiences


The mission of the Focused Clinical Experience is to give context and relevance to classroom learning by introducing students to authentic clinical settings and scenarios, creating the “need to know.” These experiences, which have clearly defined learning objectives, coincide with current topics about organ systems in the Science in Medicine curriculum, making the approach to basic science topics more comprehensive. FCEs also provide early exposure to the various clinical disciplines, helping students explore myriad career choices in medicine.

Broad goals of the FCE Program


As part of the curriculum renewal, in the 2011-12 academic year, Feinberg developed more than 40 different focused clinical experiences to pilot this new learning strategy with second-year students. A focused clinical experience is meant to expose the early learner, guided by a preceptor, to clinical manifestations of disease through a focused history, clinical exam, and related investigations (tests, procedures). These experiences, developed by faculty volunteers, provide students with access to a variety of clinicians and patients with differing conditions. An example of one such experience included spending an afternoon in the echocardiography laboratory, observing and learning from the technicians and patients undergoing imaging studies, and taking part in the cardiologist’s review of those studies. According to post-exposure questionnaires, FCEs helped to identify students’ knowledge gaps, clarify confusing concepts, and increase interest in clinical medicine.

Each experience directly corresponds to one or more lectures as part of the medical student’s study of organ systems, with each varying in content and structure. Students may be responsible for required reading before the site visit so they have a grasp of the appropriate background information. There will be a number of experiences available for each organ system, with students being expected to register and attend a specific number, but not every available FCE.