Progress on a New Kind of Progress Test: Assessing Medical Students’ Clinical Skills

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Abstract

Problem

Progress testing of medical knowledge has advantages over traditional medical school examination strategies. However, little is known about its use in assessing medical students’ clinical skills or their integration of clinical skills with necessary science knowledge. The authors previously reported on the feasibility of the Progress Clinical Skills Examination (PCSE), piloted with a group of early learners. This subsequent pilot test studied the exam’s validity to determine whether the PCSE is sensitive to the growth in students’ clinical skills across the four years of medical school.

Approach

In 2014, 38 medical student volunteers (years 1–4) in the traditional 2 + 2 curriculum at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine participated in the eight-station PCSE. Faculty and standardized patients assessed students’ clinical skills, and faculty assessed students’ responses to postencounter necessary science questions. Students performed pretest self-assessment across multiple measures and completed a posttest evaluation of their PCSE experience.

Outcomes

Student performance generally increased by year in medical school for communication, history-taking, and physical examination skills. Necessary science knowledge increased substantially from first-year to second-year students, with less change thereafter. Students felt the PCSE was a fair test of their clinical skills and provided an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the related necessary science.

Next Steps

The authors have been piloting a wider pool of cases. In 2016, they adopted the PCSE as part of the summative assessment strategy for the medical school’s new integrated four-year curriculum. Continued assessment of student performance trajectories is planned.

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