University of Oulu

Ansakorpi, Hanna; Sumelahti, Marja-Liisa; Kaasila, Raimo (2017) Medical students’ experience of emotions and success in neurological studies : what do they tell us? BMC Medical Education 17: 68. DOI: 10.1186/s12909-017-0905-4

Medical students’ experience of emotions and success in neurological studies : what do they tell us?

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Author: Ansakorpi, Hanna1,2; Sumelahti, Marja-Liisa3; Kaasila, Raimo4
Organizations: 1Research Unit of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Oulu
2Oulu University Hospital
3School of Medicine, University of Tampere
4Faculty of Education, University of Oulu
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-05-18


Background: There is a need to develop effective educational experience in neurology to improve the students’ skills in diagnosing and managing patients with neurological symptoms or disease. The aim of this study was to investigate the medical students’ attitudes and emotions towards neurology before and after the four week clinical course at two Finnish Universities in order to find elements to improve effective learning by decreasing the emotional stress in medical studies.

Methods: In this two-stage study, 58 medical students participated in an internet survey with open-ended questions after completing a clinical neurology course.

In the content analysis of this survey 20 students (35%) were identified with negative anticipation towards neurology before undertaking the clinical neurology course. In the second phase of the study, the narrative analysis method was used to analyse the face-to-face interviews. Two of these interviews are described in this paper and represent cases who expressed negative emotions in both online survey and narrative interview.

Results: According to the content analysis, the principal emotions that were experienced at the beginning of the clinical neurology course were insecurity about personal performance (𝑛 = 19, 95%) anxiety (𝑛 = 9, 45%) and fear (𝑛 = 6, 30%). During the course the combined negative emotions (insecurity, anxiety, and fear) decreased in 80% of students (16/20 cases), remained unchanged in 15% (3/20) and could not be evaluated in 1 (5%) case. The main reasons for the observed negative anticipation were the complexity of neurology and challenges in the interpretation of clinical findings. Based on content analysis and narratives, elements that were evaluated as the most significant contributors in reducing this included small group teaching with real patients, teachersʼ expertise and the increase in self-confidence.

Conclusion: Teaching with appropriate didactic methodology and feedback, and plenty of practical training can improve effective learning in neurology. We suggest that the pedagogic competence of the clinical teacher influences a student’s motivation and proficiency and reduce stress in neurology-related learning tasks.

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Series: BMC medical education
ISSN: 1472-6920
ISSN-E: 1472-6920
ISSN-L: 1472-6920
Volume: 17
Article number: 68
DOI: 10.1186/s12909-017-0905-4
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3112 Neurosciences
516 Educational sciences
Copyright information: © The Author(s). 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.