What is the difference between the terms ‘medical’ and ‘clinical’?

What is clinical medicine

If you are interested in pursuing a career within medicine, it is important to understand fundamental terminology such as the terms ‘medical’ and ‘clinical’. The term ‘medical’ stands for the Basic Sciences or theoretical aspects of the medical curriculum, while ‘clinical’ refers to the second half of your MD program where you develop practical skills.

Both the Basic Sciences and Clinical Medicine program are integral parts of your medical school curriculum. Basic science is the foundation on which your clinical medicine program is built, contributing to a successful MD program.

Therefore, it is important to understand the key differences between ‘medical’ and ‘clinical’ before you pursue a medical education. So, let’s explore what the two terms really mean.

What does the term ‘medical’ indicate?

‘Medical’ relates to the Basic Sciences curriculum in the first half of your medical studies. Basic Sciences, taught during the first two years of your MD program, focuses on teaching you the necessary theory which acts as a foundation for your clinical medicine.

The Basic Sciences curriculum develops your understanding of the human body, diseases and their diagnosis. Students are able to develop the necessary skills and knowledge through core science classes and laboratory sessions in preparation for clinical rotations.

What is clinical medicine?

Clinical medicine is all about practical experience and is taught in the third and fourth years of your MD program. Medical schools offer clinical rotations in the second half of the medical school curriculum where students are placed in different hospital settings as trainees to develop essential skills and practice.

The clinical medicine program brings the theory gained in the first two years of the MD program to life during core clinical rotations and elective rotations.

Core rotations undertaken in year three include rotations in internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, psychology, obstetrics, and gynecology. Elective rotations are taken in year four which depend on what medical students choose to specialize in.

Differences between ‘medical’ and ‘clinical’

Now that you know what both the terms mean, let’s go through the major differences between the two.

  • Basic medicine develops your knowledge of core sciences through lectures and laboratory sessions, whereas clinical medicine involves acquiring practice from hospital settings through direct contact with patients.
  • Basic medicine is taught during the first two years of medical school and clinical rotations take place during the final two years.
  • Basic medicine is limited to classrooms and laboratories, whereas clinical medicine allows you to interact with and diagnose patients as trainee doctors.
  • Basic medicine covers all the theory required to become a doctor, while clinical rotations give you an idea about the specialization you would like to pursue.

Both the medical and clinical elements within a medical education are fundamental to the development of a doctor. It is essential that medical students get the opportunity to learn the theory to understand concepts and then put this into practice through practical experience in a real-life setting.



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