Peer physical examination (PPE) is a method of training in medical and osteopathic curricula. The aim of this study was to compare the acceptability of PPE in two classes of medical and osteopathic students after their first experience, to obtain comparative information useful for an understanding of the different professional approaches. The leading hypothesis was that osteopathic students enter the curriculum with a more positive attitude to bodily contact.
As a secondary aim, this study validated the new version of a questionnaire to assess the acceptability of PPE.
A new version of a previously validated questionnaire and an instrument from the literature (the Examining Fellow Student [EFS] questionnaire) were used for a cross-sectional survey in a class of 129 3rd year medical students and in two parallel classes of 1st year osteopathic students (total of 112 students).
The mean score of the new questionnaire was significantly higher for the osteopathic students than for the medical students (53.4 ± 6.3 vs. 43.4 ± 8.9; p < 0.01). The only independent variables that were significantly predictive of the score in a linear regression analysis were gender and the condition of medical or osteopathic student. The EFS mean score also showed a significant difference between the osteopathic and medical students (30.76 ± 2.9 vs. 27.85 ± 4.3; p < 0.01).
Factor analysis of the new questionnaire identified three factors (appropriateness and usefulness, sexual implications and passive role) accounting for 62.8% of the variance. Criterion validity was assessed by correlation with the EFS (Pearson’s r coefficient = 0.61). Reliability was expressed in terms of Cronbach’s alpha coefficient, which equals 0.86.
These quantitative results are consistent with previous qualitative research on the process of embodiment both in medicine and osteopathy. The new questionnaire proved to be valid and reliable. The objective assessment of the acceptability of PPE is a way to determine differences in students’ attitudes towards contact with the body and can be used for counselling students regarding career choice. This study can also highlight differences between students from different professions and serve as a basis for reflection for improved mutual interprofessional understanding and future interprofessional education.