UCSD's Practical Guide to Clinical Medicine

A comprehensive physical examination and clinical education site for medical students and other health care professionals

Web Site Design by Jan Thompson, Program Representative, UCSD School of Medicine.
Content and Photographs by Charlie Goldberg, M.D., UCSD School of Medicine and VA Medical Center, San Diego, California 92093-0611.
Send Comments to: Charlie Goldberg, M.D.

Introduction Breast Exam Write Ups
History of Present Illness The Pelvic Examination The Oral Presentation
The Rest of the History Male Genital/Rectal Exam Outpatient Clinics
Review of Systems The Upper Extremities Inpatient Medicine
Vital Signs The Lower Extremities Clinical Decision Making
The Eye Exam Musculo-Skeletal Exam Physical Exam Lecture Series
Head and Neck Exam The Mental Status Exam A Few Thoughts
The Lung Exam The Neurological Exam Commonly Used Abbreviations
Cardiovascular Exam Physical Exam Check Lists References
Exam of the Abdomen Medical Links  

The "daVinci Anatomy Icon" denotes a link to related gross anatomy pictures. DaVinci's Anatomy Symbol

Daily Presentations During Work Rounds The New Patient Presentation The Holdover Admission Presentation Outpatient Clinic Presentations

Overview and General Information about Oral Presentation

The goal of any oral presentation is to pass along the “right amount” of patient information to a specific audience in an efficient fashion. When done well, this enables the listener to quickly understand the patient’s issues and generate an appropriate plan of action. As with any skill, it can be learned, although this takes time and practice. In addition, the world of medicine presents some additional challenges, including:

General Tips:

Specific types of presentations

There are a number of common presentation-types, each with its own goals and formats. These include:

  1. Daily presentations during work rounds for patients known to a service.
  2. Newly admitted patients, where you were the clinician that performed the H&P.
  3. Newly admitted patients that were “handed off” to the team in the morning, such that the H&P was performed by others.
  4. Outpatient clinic presentations, covering several common situations.

Key elements of each presentation type are described below. Examples of how these would be applied to most situations are provided in italics. The formats are typical of presentations done for internal medicine services and clinics.

Note that there is an acceptable range of how oral presentations can be delivered. Ultimately, your goal is to tell the correct story, in a reasonable amount of time, so that the right care can be delivered. Nuances in the order of presentation, what to include, what to omit, etc. are relatively small points. Don’t let the pursuit of these elements distract you or create undue anxiety.

Daily presentations during work rounds of patients that you’re following:


Duration: Key features of presentation:

Example of a daily presentation for a patient known to a team:

The Brand New Patient (admitted by you)

The holdover admission (presenting data that was generated by other physicians)

Outpatient-based presentations

There are 4 main types of visits that commonly occur in an outpatient continuity clinic environment, each of which has its own presentation style and purpose. These include the following, each described in detail below.

  1. The patient who is presenting for their first visit to a primary care clinic and is entirely new to the physician.
  2. The patient who is returning to primary care for a scheduled follow-up visit.
  3. The patient who is presenting with an acute problem to a primary care clinic
  4. The specialty clinic evaluation (new or follow-up)
It’s worth noting that Primary care clinics (Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Pediatrics) typically take responsibility for covering all of the patient’s issues, though the amount of energy focused on any one topic will depend on the time available, acuity, symptoms, and whether that issue is also followed by a specialty clinic.

The Brand New Primary Care Patient

Purpose of the presentation

Duration Key features of the presentation

The Follow-up Visit to a Primary Care Clinic

Purpose of the presentation

Duration Key features of the presentation

The Focused Visit to a Primary Care Clinic

Purpose of the presentation

Duration Key features of the presentation:

The Specialty Clinic Visit

Specialty clinic visits focus on the health care domains covered by those physicians. For example, Cardiology clinics are interested in cardiovascular disease related symptoms, events, labs, imaging and procedures. Orthopedics clinics will focus on musculoskeletal symptoms, events, imaging and procedures. Information that is unrelated to these disciples will typically be omitted. It’s always a good idea to ask the supervising physician for guidance as to what’s expected to be covered in a particular clinic environment.

Purpose of the presentation

Duration Key features of the presentation: Example Presentation to an Outpatient Cardiology Clinic
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