Exploring the Realities of Curriculum-by-Random-Opportunity: The Case of Geriatrics on the Internal Medicine Clerkship Rotation


  • Laura Diachun University of Western Ontario
  • Andrea Charise University of Iowa
  • Mark Goldszmidt The University of Western Ontario
  • Yin Hui The University of Western Ontario
  • Lorelei Lingard The University of Western Ontario




geriatrics, curriculum-by-random-opportunity, clinical clerkship, core competencies



While major clerkship blocks may have objectives related to specialized areas such as geriatrics, gay and lesbian bisexual transgender health, and palliative care, there is concern that teaching activities may not attend sufficiently to these objectives. Rather, these objectives are assumed to be met “by random opportunity”.(1) This study explored the case of geriatric learning opportunities on internal medicine clinical teaching units, to better understand the affordances and limitations of curriculum by random opportunity.


Using audio-recordings of morning case review discussions of 13 patients > 65 years old and the Canadian geriatric core competencies for medical students, we conducted a content analysis of each case for potential geriatric and non-geriatric learning opportunities. These learning opportunities were compared with attendings’ case review teaching discussions. The 13 cases contained 40 geriatric-related and 110 non-geriatric-related issues. While many of the geriatric issues (e.g., delirium, falls) were directly relevant to the presenting illness, attendings’ teaching discussions focused almost exclusively on non-geriatric medical issues, such as management of diabetes and anemia, many of which were less directly relevant to the reason for presenting to hospital.


The authors found that the general medicine rotation provides opportunities to acquire geriatric competencies. However, the rare uptake of opportunities in this study suggests that, in curriculum-by-random-opportunity, presence of an opportunity does not justify the assumption that learning objectives will be met.


More studies are required to investigate whether these findings are transferrable to other vulnerable populations about which undergraduate students are expected to learn through curriculum by random opportunity.


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How to Cite

Diachun L, Charise A, Goldszmidt M, Hui Y, Lingard L. Exploring the Realities of Curriculum-by-Random-Opportunity: The Case of Geriatrics on the Internal Medicine Clerkship Rotation. Can Geriatr J [Internet]. 2014 Oct. 2 [cited 2022 Sep. 25];17(4):126-32. Available from: https://cgjonline.ca/index.php/cgj/article/view/133



Original Research