An example of a Problem Based Learning exercise

This example was drawn from the teaching at St. George's and used in the five-year undergraduate programme. This is what the students receive:

You are a member of the on-duty Trauma Team in the Accident and Emergency department one Monday evening, when you are alerted to the imminent arrival of an 'RTA (road traffic accident) patient'. As she is being wheeled in to the Emergency Room, the paramedic accompanying her reports on the circumstances:

The patient is called Janet Phillips, she appears to be a medical student in her early 20s, and was on a Pelican crossing when she was struck by a car which had gone out of control. Janet had been thrown some distance from the car by the force of the impact. She is confused, in shock, has superficial lacerations to her face and severe pain in her pelvis and legs.

At the accident site her airway was cleared, oxygen administered, a traction splint applied to her right leg, and she was immobilised on a long spinal board.

The driver had only minor injuries but his breath smelled strongly of alcohol, and he was now in police custody.

In the Accident and Emergency Department Janet is given a pelvic clamp to arrest her internal bleeding.

Instructions to students in PBL tutorials

You should address each of the following four general themes in your discussion:

  • Basic and Clinical Sciences
  • Patient and Doctor
  • Community and Public Health
  • Professional Development

    In the tutorials, work through the following six steps:

    In the first tutorial....

    1. Clarify any terms and concepts in the scenario with which you are not familiar.
    2. Define the problem(s) and issue(s) raised by the scenario.
    3. Analyse the problems and issues, seeking explanations or hypotheses.
    4. Agree on specific questions (learning objectives) for each of the four general themes to which you need answers.

    In between tutorials 4 and 5, work individually on tackling the questions you agreed upon.

    In the subsequent tutorials....

    6. Discuss your individual findings to the questions and decide how the problems and issues raised by the scenario could be resolved.

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    Last updated: 1 November 2004.