Educational Needs Assessment Highlights Several Areas of Emphasis in Teaching Evidence-Based Medicine Skills to Physician Assistant Students

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Abstract

Purpose

An assessment of educational needs is essential for curricular reform in medical education. Using the conceptual framework of needs assessment, this study aimed to determine which content should be emphasized in teaching evidence-based medicine (EBM) skills to physician assistant (PA) students.

Methods

Key content areas were identified from the published literature and objectives for previous courses. A questionnaire-type needs assessment instrument was created and given to a graduating class of PA students (n = 21) at the University of North Dakota. The response format had two 5-option scales, one to assess current skill levels and the other to assess ideal skill levels. Means for each category were calculated, and a mean difference analysis was performed.

Results

An average mean difference of 0.5 was noted in 3 domains (information retrieval skills, writing skills, and overall gains), and a mean difference of 0.7 was noted in one domain (statistical skills). Items with a mean difference of ≥ 0.7 were identified for prioritization for curricular reform. Open-ended input from respondents substantiated the need for greater emphasis on these content areas.

Conclusion

Several content areas related to EBM skills can be identified and prioritized through a systematically conducted educational needs assessment. This method can be used to identify discrepancies between the existing and ideal states of affairs in PA education.

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