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1.  A hierarchy of effective teaching and learning to acquire competence in evidenced-based medicine 
Background
A variety of methods exists for teaching and learning evidence-based medicine (EBM). However, there is much debate about the effectiveness of various EBM teaching and learning activities, resulting in a lack of consensus as to what methods constitute the best educational practice. There is a need for a clear hierarchy of educational activities to effectively impart and acquire competence in EBM skills. This paper develops such a hierarchy based on current empirical and theoretical evidence.
Discussion
EBM requires that health care decisions be based on the best available valid and relevant evidence. To achieve this, teachers delivering EBM curricula need to inculcate amongst learners the skills to gain, assess, apply, integrate and communicate new knowledge in clinical decision-making. Empirical and theoretical evidence suggests that there is a hierarchy of teaching and learning activities in terms of their educational effectiveness: Level 1, interactive and clinically integrated activities; Level 2(a), interactive but classroom based activities; Level 2(b), didactic but clinically integrated activities; and Level 3, didactic, classroom or standalone teaching.
Summary
All health care professionals need to understand and implement the principles of EBM to improve care of their patients. Interactive and clinically integrated teaching and learning activities provide the basis for the best educational practice in this field.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-59
PMCID: PMC1770917  PMID: 17173690
2.  Comparative survey of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) attitudes, use, and information-seeking behaviour among medical students, residents & faculty 
Background
There is significant and growing national interest for introducing Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) instruction into allopathic medical education. We measured CAM attitudes, use, and information-seeking behaviors as a baseline to evaluate future planned CAM instruction.
Methods
Cross-sectional and longitudinal survey data on CAM attitudes, modality use, and common information resources was collected for (a) medical students (n = 355), (b) interns entering residencies in medical and surgical disciplines (n = 258), and (c) faculty from diverse health professions attending workshops on evidence-based CAM (n = 54). One student cohort was tracked longitudinally in their first, second and third years of training.
Results
Compared to medical students and interns, faculty who teach or intend to integrate CAM into their instruction had significantly (p < .0005) more positive attitudes and used CAM modalities significantly (p < .0005) more often. Medical students followed longitudinally showed no change in their already positive attitudes. The 3 survey groups did not differ on the total number of CAM information resources they used. Each group surveyed used about two out of the five common information sources listed, with the Internet and journals most frequently cited.
Conclusion
Students, interns and a selected faculty group demonstrate positive attitudes toward CAM and frequently use various CAM modalities. CAM instruction should therefore be focused on acquiring knowledge of available CAM modalities and skills to appraise evidence to appropriately advise patients on best approaches to CAM use. Trainees may benefit from exposure to a wider array of CAM information resources.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-58
PMCID: PMC1702344  PMID: 17156463
3.  Gender plays no role in student ability to perform on computer-based examinations 
Background
To see if there is a difference in performance when students switch from traditional paper-and-pencil examinations to computer-based examinations, and to determine whether there are gender differences in student performance in these two examination formats.
Methods
This study involved first year medical students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign over three Academic Years 2002–03/2003–04 and 2003–05. Comparisons of student performance by overall class and gender were made. Specific comparisons within courses that utilized both the paper-and-pencil and computer formats were analyzed.
Results
Overall performance scores for students among the various Academic Years revealed no differences between exams given in the traditional pen-and-paper and computer formats. Further, when we looked specifically for gender differences in performance between these two testing formats, we found none.
Conclusion
The format for examinations in the courses analyzed does not affect student performance. We find no evidence for gender differences in performance on exams on pen-and-paper or computer-based exams.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-57
PMCID: PMC1693549  PMID: 17132169
4.  Are Canadian General Internal Medicine training program graduates well prepared for their future careers? 
Background
At a time of increased need and demand for general internists in Canada, the attractiveness of generalist careers (including general internal medicine, GIM) has been falling as evidenced by the low number of residents choosing this specialty. One hypothesis for the lack of interest in a generalist career is lack of comfort with the skills needed to practice after training, and the mismatch between the tertiary care, inpatient training environment and "real life". This project was designed to determine perceived effectiveness of training for 10 years of graduates of Canadian GIM programs to assist in the development of curriculum and objectives for general internists that will meet the needs of graduates and ultimately society.
Methods
Mailed survey designed to explore perceived importance of training for and preparation for various aspects of Canadian GIM practice. After extensive piloting of the survey, including a pilot survey of two universities to improve the questionnaire, all graduates of the 16 universities over the previous ten years were surveyed.
Results
Gaps (difference between importance and preparation) were demonstrated in many of the CanMEDS 2000/2005® competencies. Medical problems of pregnancy, perioperative care, pain management, chronic care, ambulatory care and community GIM rotations were the medical expert areas with the largest gaps. Exposure to procedural skills was perceived to be lacking. Some procedural skills valued as important for current GIM trainees and performed frequently (example ambulatory ECG interpretation) had low preparation ratings by trainees. Other areas of perceived discrepancy between training and practice included: manager role (set up of an office), health advocate (counseling for prevention, for example smoking cessation), and professional (end of life issues, ethics).
Conclusion
Graduates of Canadian GIM training programs over the last ten years have identified perceived gaps between training and important areas for practice. They have identified competencies that should be emphasized in Canadian GIM programs. Ongoing review of graduate's perceptions of training programs as it applies to their current practice is important to ensure ongoing appropriateness of training programs. This information will be used to strengthen GIM training programs in Canada.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-56
PMCID: PMC1664564  PMID: 17112385
5.  Prof-in-a-Box: using internet-videoconferencing to assist students in the gross anatomy laboratory 
Background
The optimal learning environment for gross anatomy is the dissection laboratory. The Prof-in-a-Box (PiB) system has been developed where an anatomist using distance-learning technologies 'helps' students in a dissection laboratory at a different site.
Methods
The PiB system consists of: (1) an anatomist in his/her office with a computer and video camera; (2) a computer and 2 video cameras in the lab; (3) iChat AV software; (4) a secure server to host the PiB-student 'consultation'. The PiB system allows the students and faculty to interact via audio and video providing an environment where questions can be asked and answered and anatomical structures can be identified 'at a distance' in real-time. The PiB system was set up at a prosected cadaver and made available for student use during 'office hours'.
Results
25–30% of the students used the PiB system. Anatomical structures were identified, questions answered and demonstrations given 'at a distance' using the system. Students completed an optional questionnaire about the PiB system at the end of the semester. Results of the questionnaire indicate that the students were enthusiastic about the PiB system and wanted its use to be expanded in the future.
Conclusion
Many of the functions of a faculty member in the gross anatomy dissection laboratory can be performed 'at a distance' using the PiB system. This suggests that a geographically dispersed faculty could assist in providing instruction in the dissection labs at multiple medical schools without needing to be physically present.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-55
PMCID: PMC1676001  PMID: 17107621
6.  Knowledge and attitudes about health research amongst a group of Pakistani medical students 
Background
Health research training is an important part of medical education. This study was conducted to assess the level of knowledge and attitudes regarding health research in a group of Pakistani medical students at Aga Khan University, Karachi.
Methods
It was a cross-sectional pilot study conducted among a group of Pakistani medical students. Through stratified random sampling, a pre-tested, structured and validated questionnaire was administered to 220 medical students. Knowledge and attitudes were recorded on a scale (graduated in percentages).
Results
Mean scores of students were 49.0% on knowledge scale and 53.7% on attitude scale. Both knowledge and attitudes improved significantly with increasing years of study in medical college [Regression coefficient 4.10 (p-value; 0.019) and 6.67 (p-value; < 0.001) for knowledge and attitudes, respectively].
Conclusion
Medical students demonstrate moderate level of knowledge and attitude towards health research. Intensive training in this regard is associated with significant improvement in knowledge and attitudes of students towards health research.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-54
PMCID: PMC1635552  PMID: 17081286
7.  The research rotation: competency-based structured and novel approach to research training of internal medicine residents 
Background
In the United States, the Accreditation Council of graduate medical education (ACGME) requires all accredited Internal medicine residency training programs to facilitate resident scholarly activities. However, clinical experience and medical education still remain the main focus of graduate medical education in many Internal Medicine (IM) residency-training programs. Left to design the structure, process and outcome evaluation of the ACGME research requirement, residency-training programs are faced with numerous barriers. Many residency programs report having been cited by the ACGME residency review committee in IM for lack of scholarly activity by residents.
Methods
We would like to share our experience at Lincoln Hospital, an affiliate of Weill Medical College Cornell University New York, in designing and implementing a successful structured research curriculum based on ACGME competencies taught during a dedicated "research rotation".
Results
Since the inception of the research rotation in 2004, participation of our residents among scholarly activities has substantially increased. Our residents increasingly believe and appreciate that research is an integral component of residency training and essential for practice of medicine.
Conclusion
Internal medicine residents' outlook in research can be significantly improved using a research curriculum offered through a structured and dedicated research rotation. This is exemplified by the improvement noted in resident satisfaction, their participation in scholarly activities and resident research outcomes since the inception of the research rotation in our internal medicine training program.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-52
PMCID: PMC1630691  PMID: 17044924
8.  The impact of the implementation of work hour requirements on residents' career satisfaction, attitudes and emotions 
Background
To assess the impact of work hours' limitations required by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) on residents' career satisfaction, emotions and attitudes.
Methods
A validated survey instrument was used to assess residents' levels of career satisfaction, emotions and attitudes before and after the ACGME duty hour requirements were implemented. The "pre" implementation survey was distributed in December 2002 and the "post" implementation one in December 2004. Only the latter included work-hour related questions.
Results
The response rates were 56% for the 2002 and 72% for the 2004 surveys respectively. Although career satisfaction remained unchanged, numerous changes occurred in both emotions and attitudes. Compared to those residents who did not violate work-hour requirements, those who did were significantly more negative in attitudes and emotions.
Conclusion
With the implementation of the ACGME work hour limitations, the training experience became more negative for those residents who violated the work hour limits and had a small positive impact on those who did not violate them. Graduate medical education leaders must innovate to make the experiences for selected residents improved and still maintain compliance with the work hour requirements.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-53
PMCID: PMC1626458  PMID: 17044940
9.  Analysis of role-play in medical communication training using a theatrical device the fourth wall 
Background
Communication training is a central part of medical education. The aim of this article is to explore the positions and didactic functions of the fourth wall in medical communication training, using a role-play model basically similar to a theatrical performance.
Method
The empirical data stem from a communication training model demonstrated at an international workshop for medical teachers and course organizers. The model involves an actress playing a patient, students alternating in the role of the doctor, and a teacher who moderates. The workshop was videotaped and analyzed qualitatively.
Results
The analysis of the empirical material revealed three main locations of the fourth wall as it moved and changed qualities during the learning session: 1) A traditional theatre location, where the wall was transparent for the audience, but opaque for the participants in the fiction. 2) A "timeout/reflection" location, where the wall was doubly opaque, for the patient on the one side and the moderator, the doctor and the audience on the other side and 3) an "interviewing the character" location where the wall enclosed everybody in the room. All three locations may contribute to the learning process.
Conclusion
The theatrical concept 'the fourth wall' may present an additional tool for new understanding of fiction based communication training. Increased understanding of such an activity may help medical teachers/course organizers in planning and evaluating communication training courses.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-51
PMCID: PMC1621062  PMID: 17040575
10.  Comparison between Long-Menu and Open-Ended Questions in computerized medical assessments. A randomized controlled trial 
Background
Long-menu questions (LMQs) are viewed as an alternative method for answering open-ended questions (OEQs) in computerized assessment. So far this question type and its influence on examination scores have not been studied sufficiently. However, the increasing use of computerized assessments will also lead to an increasing use of this question type.
Using a summative online key feature (KF) examination we evaluated whether LMQs can be compared with OEQs in regard to the level of difficulty, performance and response times. We also evaluated the content for its suitability for LMQs.
Methods
We randomized 146 fourth year medical students into two groups. For the purpose of this study we created 7 peer-reviewed KF-cases with a total of 25 questions. All questions had the same content in both groups, but nine questions had a different answer type. Group A answered 9 questions with an LM type, group B with an OE type. In addition to the LM answer, group A could give an OE answer if the appropriate answer was not included in the list.
Results
The average number of correct answers for LMQs and OEQs showed no significant difference (p = 0.93). Among all 630 LM answers only one correct term (0.32%) was not included in the list of answers. The response time for LMQs did not significantly differ from that of OEQs (p = 0.65).
Conclusion
LMQs and OEQs do not differ significantly. Compared to standard multiple-choice questions (MCQs), the response time for LMQs and OEQs is longer. This is probably due to the fact that they require active problem solving skills and more practice. LMQs correspond more suitable to Short answer questions (SAQ) then to OEQ and should only be used when the answers can be clearly phrased, using only a few, precise synonyms.
LMQs can decrease cueing effects and significantly simplify the scoring in computerized assessment.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-50
PMCID: PMC1618389  PMID: 17032439
11.  High fidelity medical simulation in the difficult environment of a helicopter: feasibility, self-efficacy and cost 
Background
This study assessed the feasibility, self-efficacy and cost of providing a high fidelity medical simulation experience in the difficult environment of an air ambulance helicopter.
Methods
Seven of 12 EM residents in their first postgraduate year participated in an EMS flight simulation as the flight physician. The simulation used the Laerdal SimMan™ to present a cardiac and a trauma case in an EMS helicopter while running at flight idle. Before and after the simulation, subjects completed visual analog scales and a semi-structured interview to measure their self-efficacy, i.e. comfort with their ability to treat patients in the helicopter, and recognition of obstacles to care in the helicopter environment. After all 12 residents had completed their first non-simulated flight as the flight physician; they were surveyed about self-assessed comfort and perceived value of the simulation. Continuous data were compared between pre- and post-simulation using a paired samples t-test, and between residents participating in the simulation and those who did not using an independent samples t-test. Categorical data were compared using Fisher's exact test. Cost data for the simulation experience were estimated by the investigators.
Results
The simulations functioned correctly 5 out of 7 times; suggesting some refinement is necessary. Cost data indicated a monetary cost of $440 and a time cost of 22 hours of skilled instructor time. The simulation and non-simulation groups were similar in their demographics and pre-hospital experiences. The simulation did not improve residents' self-assessed comfort prior to their first flight (p > 0.234), but did improve understanding of the obstacles to patient care in the helicopter (p = 0.029). Every resident undertaking the simulation agreed it was educational and it should be included in their training. Qualitative data suggested residents would benefit from high fidelity simulation in other environments, including ground transport and for running codes in hospital.
Conclusion
It is feasible to provide a high fidelity medical simulation experience in the difficult environment of the air ambulance helicopter, although further experience is necessary to eliminate practical problems. Simulation improves recognition of the challenges present and provides an important opportunity for training in challenging environments. However, use of simulation technology is expensive both in terms of monetary outlay and of personnel involvement. The benefits of this technology must be weighed against the cost for each institution.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-49
PMCID: PMC1613239  PMID: 17020624
12.  Life satisfaction and resilience in medical school – a six-year longitudinal, nationwide and comparative study 
Background
This study examined the relationship between life satisfaction among medical students and a basic model of personality, stress and coping. Previous studies have shown relatively high levels of distress, such as symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts in medical undergraduates. However despite the increased focus on positive psychological health and well-being during the past decades, only a few studies have focused on life satisfaction and coping in medical students. This is the first longitudinal study which has identified predictors of sustained high levels of life satisfaction among medical students.
Methods
This longitudinal, nationwide questionnaire study examined the course of life satisfaction during medical school, compared the level of satisfaction of medical students with that of other university students, and identified resilience factors. T-tests were used to compare means of life satisfaction between and within the population groups. K-means cluster analyses were applied to identify subgroups among the medical students. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and logistic regression analyses were used to compare the subgroups.
Results
Life satisfaction decreased during medical school. Medical students were as satisfied as other students in the first year of study, but reported less satisfaction in their graduation year. Medical students who sustained high levels of life satisfaction perceived medical school as interfering less with their social and personal life, and were less likely to use emotion focused coping, such as wishful thinking, than their peers.
Conclusion
Medical schools should encourage students to spend adequate time on their social and personal lives and emphasise the importance of health-promoting coping strategies.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-48
PMCID: PMC1592096  PMID: 16984638
13.  Integrated problem-based learning in the neuroscience curriculum – the SUNY Downstate experience 
Background
This paper reports the author's initial experience as Block Director in converting a Conventional Curriculum into a problem-based learning model (PBL) for teaching Psychopathology. As part of a wide initiative in curriculum reform, Psychopathology, which was a six-week course in the second-year medical school curriculum, became integrated into a combined Neuroscience block. The study compares curriculum conversion at State University of New York (SUNY), Downstate, with the experiences at other medical centres that have instituted similar curricula reform.
Methods
Student satisfaction with the Conventional and PBL components of the Neuroscience curriculum was compared using questionnaires and formal discussions between faculty and a body of elected students. The PBL experience in Psychopathology was also compared with that of the rest of the Neuroscience Block, which used large student groups and expert facilitators, while the Psychopathology track was limited to small groups using mentors differing widely in levels of expertise.
Results
Students appeared to indicate a preference toward conventional lectures and large PBL groups using expert facilitators in contrast to small group mentors who were not experts. Small PBL groups with expert mentors in the Psychopathology track were also rated favorably.
Conclusion
The study reviews the advantages and pitfalls of the PBL system when applied to a Neuroscience curriculum on early career development. At SUNY, conversion from a Conventional model to a PBL model diverged from that proposed by Howard S. Barrows where student groups define the learning objectives and problem-solving strategies. In our model, the learning objectives were faculty-driven. The critical issue for the students appeared to be the level of faculty expertise rather than group size. Expert mentors were rated more favorably by students in fulfilling the philosophical objectives of PBL.
The author, by citing the experience at other major Medical Faculties, makes a cautious attempt to address the challenges involved in the conversion of a Psychopathology curriculum into a PBL dominated format.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-47
PMCID: PMC1599720  PMID: 16982002
14.  Standard setting: Comparison of two methods 
Background
The outcome of assessments is determined by the standard-setting method used. There is a wide range of standard – setting methods and the two used most extensively in undergraduate medical education in the UK are the norm-reference and the criterion-reference methods. The aims of the study were to compare these two standard-setting methods for a multiple-choice question examination and to estimate the test-retest and inter-rater reliability of the modified Angoff method.
Methods
The norm – reference method of standard -setting (mean minus 1 SD) was applied to the 'raw' scores of 78 4th-year medical students on a multiple-choice examination (MCQ). Two panels of raters also set the standard using the modified Angoff method for the same multiple-choice question paper on two occasions (6 months apart). We compared the pass/fail rates derived from the norm reference and the Angoff methods and also assessed the test-retest and inter-rater reliability of the modified Angoff method.
Results
The pass rate with the norm-reference method was 85% (66/78) and that by the Angoff method was 100% (78 out of 78). The percentage agreement between Angoff method and norm-reference was 78% (95% CI 69% – 87%). The modified Angoff method had an inter-rater reliability of 0.81 – 0.82 and a test-retest reliability of 0.59–0.74.
Conclusion
There were significant differences in the outcomes of these two standard-setting methods, as shown by the difference in the proportion of candidates that passed and failed the assessment. The modified Angoff method was found to have good inter-rater reliability and moderate test-retest reliability.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-46
PMCID: PMC1578558  PMID: 16972990
15.  On line clinical reasoning assessment with Script Concordance test in urology: results of a French pilot study 
Background
The Script Concordance test (SC) test is an assessment tool that measures the capacity to solve ill-defined problems, that is, reasoning in a context of uncertainty. This study assesses the feasibility, reliability and validity of the SC test made available on the Web to French urologists.
Methods
A 97 items SC test was developed based on major educational objectives of French urology training programmes. A secure Web site was created with two sequential modules: a) The first one for the reference panel to elaborate the scoring system; b) The second for candidates with different levels of experience in urology: Board certified urologists, chief-residents, residents, medical students. All participants were recruited on a voluntary basis. Statistical analysis included descriptive statistics of the participants' scores and factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA) to study differences between groups' means. Reliability was evaluated with Cronbach's alpha coefficient.
Results
The on line SC test has been operational since June 2004. Twenty-six faculty members constituted the reference panel. During the following 10 months, 207 participants took the test online (124 urologists, 29 chief-residents, 38 residents, 16 students). No technical problem was encountered. Forty-five percent of the participants completed the test partially only. Differences between the means scores for the 4 groups were statistically significant (P = 0.0123). The Bonferroni post-hoc correction indicated that significant differences were present between students and chief-residents, between students and urologists. There were no differences between chief-residents and urologists. Reliability coefficient was 0.734 for the total group of participants.
Conclusion
Feasibility of Web-based SC test was proved successful by the large number of participants who participated in a few months. This Web site has permitted to quickly confirm reliability of the SC test and develop strategy to improve construct validity of the test when applied in the field of urology. Nevertheless, optimisation of the SC test content, with a smaller number of items will be necessary. Virtual medical education initiative such as this SC test delivered on the Internet warrants consideration in the current context of national pre-residency certification examination in France.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-45
PMCID: PMC1574298  PMID: 16938134
16.  Dealing with suicidal patients – a challenging task: a qualitative study of young physicians' experiences 
Background
Suicide is a major public health problem and treating suicidal patients represents one of the most challenging and complex clinical situations for young physicians. Education of physicians is considered an important strategy in suicide prevention. Young physicians often meet suicidal patients early in their career. Limited information is available about how newly educated physicians experience treating suicidal patients. The aim of the study was to shed light on the meaning of newly educated physicians' lived experiences in treating patients at risk of committing suicide.
Methods
Thirteen newly educated physicians narrated their experiences with suicidal patients. The interview text was transcribed and interpreted using a phenomenological-hermeneutical method inspired by Ricoeur's philosophy.
Results
Three main themes and ten themes were noted: Striving for relatedness: relating with the patient; not being able to relate with the patient; Intervening competently: having adequate professional knowledge; performing professionally; having professional values; evaluating one's own competence; and Being emotionally involved: accepting one's own vulnerability; feeling morally indignant; feeling powerless and accepting one's own fallibility. The recently educated physicians clearly described the variety of emotional and ethical dilemmas that arose in meeting suicidal patients and the professional challenge facing this clinical situation. The findings were interpreted in the perspective of communication, clinical decision-making and attention to the professional's emotional reactions.
Conclusion
An examination of the experiences of young physicians treating suicidal patients reveals three main themes that were a professional challenge for them: Striving for relatedness, Intervening competently and Being emotionally involved. Support for young practitioners that are treating these patients is likely important both to facilitate learning and also for their own well-being. This increased understanding can open up for the patient's suffering and affirm the patient's sense of life. The study provides additional background for educators designing training programs for physicians who will be treating suicidal patients.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-44
PMCID: PMC1564013  PMID: 16928281
17.  Do community medicine residency trainees learn through journal club? An experience from a developing country 
Background
Journal clubs are an internationally recognized teaching tool in many postgraduate medical education fields. In developing countries lack of funds for current print materials may have limited journal club use. But with advancing information technology trainees in developing countries increasingly have more access to high quality journals online. However, we are aware of no studies describing journal club existence and effectiveness in postgraduate medical training in Pakistan. Also we have found no published effectiveness studies of this teaching modality in Community Medicine (Public Health) in any country. This study evaluated the effectiveness of Community Medicine (Public Health) Resident Journal Club (CMR-JC) in Aga Khan University, Pakistan using international criteria for successful journal clubs (2 years continuous existence and more than 50% attendance) and examining resident and alumni satisfaction.
Methods
Journal club effectiveness criteria were searched using electronic search databases. Departmental records were reviewed from September1999–September 2005. Ninety percent of residents and alumni of Community Medicine Residency Programme participated voluntarily in a confidential survey.
Results
The CMR-JC was regularly conducted. More than 95% of residents attended. (Total residents in the CMR-Programme: 32). Twenty-seven out of 29 current residents/alumni responded to the anonymous questionnaire. Acquisition of critical appraisal skills (23 respondents) and keeping up with current literature (18 respondents) were the two most important objectives achieved. Respondents recommended improved faculty participation and incorporating a structured checklist for article review.
Conclusion
CMR-JC fulfils criteria for effective journal clubs. Residents and alumni agree CMR-JC meets its objectives. Incorporating suggested recommendations will further improve standards. The journal club learning modality should be included in residency training programs in developing countries. Effective use of online resources to support journal clubs is demonstrated as a successful alternative to excessive expenditure for obtaining print journals. Those trying to start or improve journal clubs can benefit from our experience.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-43
PMCID: PMC1564014  PMID: 16925800
18.  Assessment of examiner leniency and stringency ('hawk-dove effect') in the MRCP(UK) clinical examination (PACES) using multi-facet Rasch modelling 
Background
A potential problem of clinical examinations is known as the hawk-dove problem, some examiners being more stringent and requiring a higher performance than other examiners who are more lenient. Although the problem has been known qualitatively for at least a century, we know of no previous statistical estimation of the size of the effect in a large-scale, high-stakes examination. Here we use FACETS to carry out a multi-facet Rasch modelling of the paired judgements made by examiners in the clinical examination (PACES) of MRCP(UK), where identical candidates were assessed in identical situations, allowing calculation of examiner stringency.
Methods
Data were analysed from the first nine diets of PACES, which were taken between June 2001 and March 2004 by 10,145 candidates. Each candidate was assessed by two examiners on each of seven separate tasks. with the candidates assessed by a total of 1,259 examiners, resulting in a total of 142,030 marks. Examiner demographics were described in terms of age, sex, ethnicity, and total number of candidates examined.
Results
FACETS suggested that about 87% of main effect variance was due to candidate differences, 1% due to station differences, and 12% due to differences between examiners in leniency-stringency. Multiple regression suggested that greater examiner stringency was associated with greater examiner experience and being from an ethnic minority. Male and female examiners showed no overall difference in stringency. Examination scores were adjusted for examiner stringency and it was shown that for the present pass mark, the outcome for 95.9% of candidates would be unchanged using adjusted marks, whereas 2.6% of candidates would have passed, even though they had failed on the basis of raw marks, and 1.5% of candidates would have failed, despite passing on the basis of raw marks.
Conclusion
Examiners do differ in their leniency or stringency, and the effect can be estimated using Rasch modelling. The reasons for differences are not clear, but there are some demographic correlates, and the effects appear to be reliable across time. Account can be taken of differences, either by adjusting marks or, perhaps more effectively and more justifiably, by pairing high and low stringency examiners, so that raw marks can be used in the determination of pass and fail.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-42
PMCID: PMC1569374  PMID: 16919156
19.  Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education 
Background
We have witnessed a rapid increase in the use of Web-based 'collaborationware' in recent years. These Web 2.0 applications, particularly wikis, blogs and podcasts, have been increasingly adopted by many online health-related professional and educational services. Because of their ease of use and rapidity of deployment, they offer the opportunity for powerful information sharing and ease of collaboration. Wikis are Web sites that can be edited by anyone who has access to them. The word 'blog' is a contraction of 'Web Log' – an online Web journal that can offer a resource rich multimedia environment. Podcasts are repositories of audio and video materials that can be "pushed" to subscribers, even without user intervention. These audio and video files can be downloaded to portable media players that can be taken anywhere, providing the potential for "anytime, anywhere" learning experiences (mobile learning).
Discussion
Wikis, blogs and podcasts are all relatively easy to use, which partly accounts for their proliferation. The fact that there are many free and Open Source versions of these tools may also be responsible for their explosive growth. Thus it would be relatively easy to implement any or all within a Health Professions' Educational Environment. Paradoxically, some of their disadvantages also relate to their openness and ease of use. With virtually anybody able to alter, edit or otherwise contribute to the collaborative Web pages, it can be problematic to gauge the reliability and accuracy of such resources. While arguably, the very process of collaboration leads to a Darwinian type 'survival of the fittest' content within a Web page, the veracity of these resources can be assured through careful monitoring, moderation, and operation of the collaborationware in a closed and secure digital environment. Empirical research is still needed to build our pedagogic evidence base about the different aspects of these tools in the context of medical/health education.
Summary and conclusion
If effectively deployed, wikis, blogs and podcasts could offer a way to enhance students', clinicians' and patients' learning experiences, and deepen levels of learners' engagement and collaboration within digital learning environments. Therefore, research should be conducted to determine the best ways to integrate these tools into existing e-Learning programmes for students, health professionals and patients, taking into account the different, but also overlapping, needs of these three audience classes and the opportunities of virtual collaboration between them. Of particular importance is research into novel integrative applications, to serve as the "glue" to bind the different forms of Web-based collaborationware synergistically in order to provide a coherent wholesome learning experience.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-41
PMCID: PMC1564136  PMID: 16911779
20.  Evaluation of an interactive case simulation system in dermatology and venereology for medical students 
Background
Most of the many computer resources used in clinical teaching of dermatology and venereology for medical undergraduates are information-oriented and focus mostly on finding a "correct" multiple-choice alternative or free-text answer. We wanted to create an interactive computer program, which facilitates not only factual recall but also clinical reasoning.
Methods
Through continuous interaction with students, a new computerised interactive case simulation system, NUDOV, was developed. It is based on authentic cases and contains images of real patients, actors and healthcare providers. The student selects a patient and proposes questions for medical history, examines the skin, and suggests investigations, diagnosis, differential diagnoses and further management. Feedback is given by comparing the user's own suggestions with those of a specialist. In addition, a log file of the student's actions is recorded. The program includes a large number of images, video clips and Internet links. It was evaluated with a student questionnaire and by randomising medical students to conventional teaching (n = 85) or conventional teaching plus NUDOV (n = 31) and comparing the results of the two groups in a final written examination.
Results
The questionnaire showed that 90% of the NUDOV students stated that the program facilitated their learning to a large/very large extent, and 71% reported that extensive working with authentic computerised cases made it easier to understand and learn about diseases and their management. The layout, user-friendliness and feedback concept were judged as good/very good by 87%, 97%, and 100%, respectively. Log files revealed that the students, in general, worked with each case for 60–90 min. However, the intervention group did not score significantly better than the control group in the written examination.
Conclusion
We created a computerised case simulation program allowing students to manage patients in a non-linear format supporting the clinical reasoning process. The student gets feedback through comparison with a specialist, eliminating the need for external scoring or correction. The model also permits discussion of case processing, since all transactions are stored in a log file. The program was highly appreciated by the students, but did not significantly improve their performance in the written final examination.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-40
PMCID: PMC1590009  PMID: 16907972
21.  Long-term impact of four different strategies for delivering an on-line curriculum about herbs and other dietary supplements 
Background
Previous research has shown that internet education can lead to short-term improvements in clinicians' knowledge, confidence and communication practices. We wished to better understand the duration of these improvements and whether different curriculum delivery strategies differed in affecting these improvements.
Methods
As previously described, we conducted a randomized control trial comparing four different strategies for delivering an e-curriculum about herbs and other dietary supplements (HDS) to clinicians. The four strategies were delivering the curriculum by: a) email over 10 weeks; b) email within one week; c) web-site over 10 weeks; d) web-site within one week. Participants were surveyed at baseline, immediately after the course and 6–10 months after completing the course (long-term). Long-term outcomes focused on clinicians' knowledge, confidence and communication practices.
Results
Of the 780 clinicians who completed the course, 385 (49%) completed the long-term survey. Completers and non-completers of the long-term survey had similar demographics and professional characteristics at baseline. There were statistically significant improvements from baseline to long-term follow-up in knowledge, confidence and communication practices; these improvements did not differ by curriculum delivery strategy. Knowledge scores improved from 67.7 ± 10.3 at baseline to 78.8 ± 12.3 at long-term follow-up (P < 0.001). Confidence scores improved from 53.7 ± 17.8 at baseline to 66.9 ± 12.0 at long term follow-up (P < 0.001); communication scores improved from 2.6 ± 1.9 at baseline to 3.6 ± 2.1 (P < 0.001) at long-term follow-up.
Conclusion
This e- curriculum led to significant and sustained improvements in clinicians' expertise about HDS regardless of the delivery strategy. Future studies should compare the impact of required vs. elective courses and self-reported vs. objective measures of behavior change.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-39
PMCID: PMC1557850  PMID: 16893458
22.  Development and evaluation of a cultural competency training curriculum 
Background
Increasing the cultural competence of physicians and other health care providers has been suggested as one mechanism for reducing health disparities by improving the quality of care across racial/ethnic groups. While cultural competency training for physicians is increasingly promoted, relatively few studies evaluating the impact of training have been published.
Methods
We recruited 53 primary care physicians at 4 diverse practice sites and enrolled 429 of their patients with diabetes and/or hypertension. Patients completed a baseline survey which included a measure of physician culturally competent behaviors. Cultural competency training was then provided to physicians at 2 of the sites. At all 4 sites, physicians received feedback in the form of their aggregated cultural competency scores compared to the aggregated scores from other physicians in the practice. The primary outcome at 6 months was change in the Patient-Reported Physician Cultural Competence (PRPCC) score; secondary outcomes were changes in patient trust, satisfaction, weight, systolic blood pressure, and glycosylated hemoglobin. Multiple analysis of variance was used to control for differences patient characteristics and baseline levels of the outcome measure between groups.
Results
Patients had a mean of 2.8 + 2.2 visits to the study physician during the study period. Changes in all outcomes were similar in the "Training + Feedback" group compared to the "Feedback Only" group (PRPCC: 3.7 vs.1.8; trust: -0.7 vs. -0.2 ; satisfaction: 1.9 vs. 2.5; weight: -2.5 lbs vs. -0.7 lbs; systolic blood pressure: 1.7 mm Hg vs. 0.1 mm Hg; glycosylated hemoglobin 0.02% vs. 0.07%; p = NS for all).
Conclusion
The lack of measurable impact of physician training on patient-reported and disease-specific outcomes in the current has several possible explanations, including the relatively limited nature of the intervention. We hope that the current study will help provide a basis for future studies, using more intensive interventions with different provider groups.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-38
PMCID: PMC1555583  PMID: 16872504
23.  Using a conceptual framework during learning attenuates the loss of expert-type knowledge structure 
Background
During evolution from novice to expert, knowledge structure develops into an abridged network organized around pathophysiological concepts. The objectives of this study were to examine the change in knowledge structure in medical students in one year and to investigate the association between the use of a conceptual framework (diagnostic scheme) and long-term knowledge structure.
Methods
Medical students' knowledge structure of metabolic alkalosis was studied after instruction and one year later using concept-sorting. Knowledge structure was labeled 'expert-type' if students shared ≥ 2 concepts with experts and 'novice-type' if they shared < 2 concepts. Conditional logistic regression was used to study the association between short-term knowledge structure, the use of a diagnostic scheme and long-term knowledge structure.
Results
Thirty-four medical students completed the concept-sorting task on both occasions. Twenty-four used a diagnostic scheme for metabolic alkalosis. Short-term knowledge structure was not a correlate of long-term knowledge structure, whereas use of a diagnostic scheme was associated with increased odds of expert-type long-term knowledge structure (odds ratio 12.6 [1.4, 116.0], p = 0.02). There was an interaction between short-term knowledge structure and the use of a diagnostic scheme. In the group who did not use a diagnostic scheme the number of students changing from expert-type to novice-type was greater than vice versa (p = 0.046). There was no significant change in the group that used the diagnostic scheme (p = 0.6).
Conclusion
The use of a diagnostic scheme by students may attenuate the loss of expert-type knowledge structure.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-37
PMCID: PMC1540414  PMID: 16848903
24.  A mid year comparison study of career satisfaction and emotional states between residents and faculty at one academic medical center 
Background
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education's (ACGME) new requirements raise multiple challenges for academic medical centers. We sought to evaluate career satisfaction, emotional states, positive and negative experiences, work hours and sleep among residents and faculty simultaneously in one academic medical center after implementation of the ACGME duty hour requirements.
Methods
Residents and faculty (1330) in the academic health center were asked to participate in a confidential survey; 72% of the residents and 66% of the faculty completed the survey.
Results
Compared to residents, faculty had higher levels of satisfaction with career choice, competence, importance and usefulness; lower levels of anxiousness and depression. The most positive experiences for both groups corresponded to strong interpersonal relationships and educational value; most negative experiences to poor interpersonal relationships and issues perceived outside of the physician's control.
Approximately 13% of the residents and 14% of the faculty were out of compliance with duty hour requirements. Nearly 5% of faculty reported working more than 100 hours per week. For faculty who worked 24 hour shifts, nearly 60% were out of compliance with the duty-hour requirements.
Conclusion
Reasons for increased satisfaction with career choice, positive emotional states and experiences for faculty compared to residents are unexplained. Earlier studies from this institution identified similar positive findings among advanced residents compared to more junior residents. Faculty are more frequently at risk for duty-hour violations. If patient safety is of prime importance, faculty, in particular, should be compliant with the duty hour requirements. Perhaps the ACGME should contain faculty work hours as part of its regulatory function.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-36
PMCID: PMC1550711  PMID: 16827939
25.  Relationship between resident workload and self-perceived learning on inpatient medicine wards: a longitudinal study 
Background
Despite recent residency workload and hour limitations, little research on the relationship between workload and learning has been done. We sought to define residents' perceptions of the optimal patient workload for learning, and to determine how certain variables contribute to those perceptions. Our hypothesis was that the relationship between perceived workload and learning has a maximum point (forming a parabolic curve): that either too many or too few patients results in sub-optimal learning.
Methods
Residents on inpatient services at two academic teaching hospitals reported their team and individual patient censuses, and rated their perception of their learning; the patient acuity; case variety; and how challenged they felt. To estimate maximum learning scores, linear regression models with quadratic terms were fit on learning score.
Results
Resident self-perceived learning correlated with higher acuity and greater heterogeneity of case variety. The equation of census versus learning score, adjusted for perception of acuity and case mix scores, showed a parabolic curve in some cases but not in others.
Conclusion
These data suggest that perceived resident workload is complex, and impacted by additional variables including patient acuity and heterogeneity of case variety. Parabolic curves exist for interns with regard to overall census and for senior residents with regard to new admissions on long call days.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-35
PMCID: PMC1550230  PMID: 16824224

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