Context: During the third semester of a 6 year long curriculum medical students train clinical skills in the skills laboratory (2 hours per week for 9 weeks) as well as in an early, 8 week clinical clerkship at county hospitals. Objectives: to study students’ expectations and attitudes towards skills training in the skills laboratory and clerkship. Subjects: 126 medical students in their 3rd semester. Methods: During the fall of 2001 three consecutive, constructed questionnaires were distributed prior to laboratory training, following laboratory training but prior to clerkships, and following clerkships respectively. Results: Almost all (98%) respondents found that training in skills laboratory improved the outcome of the early clerkship and 70% believed in transferability of skills from the laboratory setting to clerkship. Still, a majority (93%) of students thought that the clerkship provided students with a better opportunity to learn clinical skills when compared to the skills laboratory. Skills training in laboratory as well as in clerkship motivated students for becoming doctors. Teachers in both settings were perceived as being committed to their teaching jobs, to demonstrate skills prior to practice, and to give students feed back with a small but significant more positive rating of the laboratory. Of the 22 skills that students had trained in the laboratory, a majority of students tried out skills associated with physical examination in the clerkship, whereas only a minority of students tried out more intimate skills. Female medical students tried significantly fewer skills during their clerkship compared to male students. Conclusions: Students believe that skills laboratory training prepare them for their subsequent early clerkship but favour the clerkship over the laboratory
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