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Medical Education 2012: 46: 1028–1041

Context  Longitudinal integrated clerkships (LICs) have been widely implemented in both rural and urban contexts, as is now evident in the wealth of studies published internationally. This narrative literature review aims to summarise current evidence regarding the outcomes of LICs for student, clinician and community stakeholders.

Methods  Recent literature was examined for original research articles pertaining to outcomes of LICs.

Results  Students in LICs achieve academic results equivalent to and in some cases better than those of their counterparts who receive clinical education in block rotations. Students in LICs are reported to have well-developed patient-centred communication skills, demonstrate understanding of the psychosocial contributions to medicine, and report more preparedness in higher-order clinical and cognitive skills in comparison with students in traditional block rotations (TBRs). Students in LICs take on increased responsibility with patients and describe having more confidence in dealing with ethical dilemmas. Continuity of supervision reportedly facilitates incremental knowledge acquisition, and supervisors provide incrementally progressive feedback. Despite early disorientation regarding the organising of their learning, students feel well supported by the continuity of student–preceptor relationships and value the contributions made by these. Students in LICs living and working in rural areas are positively influenced towards primary care and rural career choices.

Discussion  A sound body of knowledge in the field of LIC research suggests it is time to move beyond descriptive or exploratory research that is designed to justify this new educational approach by comparing academic results. As the attributes of LIC alumni are better understood, it is important to conduct explanatory research to develop a more complete understanding of these findings and a foundation for new theoretical frameworks that underpin educational change.

Conclusions  Longitudinal integrated clerkships are now recognised as representing credible and effective pedagogical alternatives to TBRs in medical education.