How to Dress for OSCE Success

In the weeks leading up to the OSCE, the question of how to dress for your exam is sure to pop up. However, your appearance is so much more than what you wear on the day.

Wear what you would normally wear

An OSCE case is meant to be a ‘snippit’ of a real consultation in ‘GP land’, so wear what you would normally wear to work and what you feel most comfortable in, whilst still appearing professional. If that means high heels for the ladies, then that’s OK – just don’t wear them if you’re concentrating more on staying upright than on the case! And for the blokes, if a tie makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t put one on!  The only caveat on these rules is that if you work in rural and/or tropical areas, jeans and boardshorts are probably not the way to go (and a suit is really uncomfortable if you are sitting your exam in QLD or the NT).

Ensure you have practiced with a diverse demographic

Once you have your comfy work gear on, then think about the other bits and pieces that you’ll need to appear at your best in the OSCE exam. Nerves are normal. As examiners, we understand nerves BUT we can tell the difference between a candidate that is nervous because they are unprepared, and one who is affected by the unpleasant impact of the stress of the day. You need to appear like you have taken the history, done the examination, thought about the investigations and explained the management many, many times.  The most efficient way to do this IS to have done the aforementioned things many, many times, ie. seen lots and lots of different conditions and different types of patients. To achieve this, working in general practice with a diverse demographic, is the best method.  If you have been working in the same practice for a long time, or have developed expertise in a particular area, enhance your confidence and preparation by sitting in with a colleague who sees different things, or perhaps observing a colleague in a different practice.

Planning & non-verbal communication

The OSCE is important for assessing those aspects of clinical practice that can’t be easily ascertained in a written test where clinical knowledge is often the focus. Think about how you will use your body language and speech to demonstrate that you are confident in the way that you communicate with, educate and effectively manage patients.

Reading time is important to achieve confident communication. Use the reading time before each station to consider what the case will be about, what key elements you will need to demonstrate and develop a strategy to address these. (See the blog post on the Three Minute Reading Time for more on this topic). If you have used your time effectively to plan your approach, your communication skills will appear practiced and organised, and consequently your consultation flow will be smooth and time management effective. Most importantly, if you are feeling a little lost in a case, don’t show it! Try not to appear uncertain or indecisive – take some time out to read the task sheet again. If you’re still not sure what is going on, make a plan with the patient, including safety-netting and follow up.   This is, after all, what we do in General Practice if the answer isn’t immediately obvious.

Reflect and ask for feedback

In the next few weeks as you are ramping up your study for the OSCE exam, take some time to consider your appearance to ensure that you will feel comfortable and confident on the day. When you are speaking or examining your patients, think about what feedback someone observing might give – would they comment positively on your non-jargonistic language and non-verbal communication? Could they tell if you are just ‘going through the motions’ with your examinations or do you actually look like you are completing a thorough and focused examination? Better still, ask a study partner, or colleague who has completed the exam to give you some feedback on your performance, focusing on how you appear, not just on what you know!

Please note:  This post was originally published on the Medcast exam preparation blog:

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