Assessment of Musculoskeletal Examination Skills: Physiatry Residents as Evaluators and Models

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To evaluate the musculoskeletal examination (MSKE) skills of junior (postgraduate year [PGY] 2) physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) residents and self-confidence with these skills, and to demonstrate changes in self-confidence in the MSKE skills of senior (PGY3 and PGY4) residents, who served as evaluators and models.


Forty-one PGY2–4 residents participated in this retrospective cohort study, which was conducted within a residency program affiliated with two medical schools. Senior residents attended an instructional session in performing and evaluating MSKE skills, taught by a musculoskeletal physiatrist. The following week, junior residents were tested on their MSKE skills; nine seniors served as models, and another nine served as evaluators. Six seniors attended the instructional session only and did not participate in the evaluation. Juniors received a posttest teaching session on MSKE skills, before an unannounced repeat evaluation 5 mos later. All residents completed a survey regarding self-confidence in MSKE skills pre- and posttest teaching sessions. Performance of MSKE skills (based on PASSOR guidelines) and application of ACGME core competencies (medical knowledge, professionalism, interpersonal skills) were measured, and a survey was administered regarding self-confidence in MSKE skills.


Posttest results showed a significant improvement of MSKE skills among juniors in the shoulder, lumbar spine, and knee examinations (P < 0.008), with the most robust improvement in the shoulder exam (P < 0.0001). Self-confidence of juniors in their MSKE skills increased significantly (P < 0.005). There was significant improvement (P < 0.008) in self-confidence in the MSKE skills of seniors who served as models and evaluators, but not in those who only attended the instructional session (P = 0.06).


This evaluation and instructional method resulted in a significant improvement of MSKE skills of junior residents on formal testing. Using senior residents as evaluators and models improved their confidence in their own MSKE skills.

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