Professionalism is one of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education's core competencies. Residency programs must teach residents about ethical principles, which is an essential component of professionalism.
We aimed to formally develop a valid and reliable test of ethics knowledge that effectively discriminated among learners in pediatric residency training and to improve methods for measuring outcomes of resident education in medical ethics.
We created an instrument with 36 true/false questions that tested knowledge in several domains of pediatric ethics: professionalism, adolescent medicine, genetic testing and diagnosis, neonatology, end-of-life decisions, and decision making for minors. All questions and their correct answers were derived from published statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics. We invited a range of participants from novices to experts to complete the test. We evaluated the instrument's reliability and explored item discrimination, omitting 13 items with the least discriminatory power. Score differences between the 3 categories of examinees were evaluated.
The 23-item test, completed by 54 participants, demonstrated good internal reliability (Kuder-Richardson 20 statistic = 0.73). The test was moderately difficult and had a mean overall score of 17.3 (±3.3 standard deviation). Performance appropriately improved with degree of expertise: median scores for medical students, postgraduate year-3 residents, and ethicists were 15 (65%, range, 11–19), 19 (83%, range, 14–23), and 22 (96%, range, 20–23), respectively. Ethicists' scores were significantly higher than those of medical students (P < .001) and residents (P = .007). Moreover, residents performed significantly better than medical students (P = .001).
We developed a standardized instrument, entitled Test of Residents' Ethics Knowledge for Pediatrics (TREK-P), to evaluate residents' knowledge of pediatric ethics. The TREK-P is easy to administer, reliably discriminates among learners, and highlights content areas in which knowledge may be deficient.