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1.  A survey of medical students to assess their exposure to and knowledge of renal transplantation 
Background
Within the field of renal transplantation there is a lack of qualified and trainee surgeons and a shortage of donated organs. Any steps to tackle these issues should, in part, be aimed at future doctors.
Methods
A questionnaire was distributed to final year students at a single medical school in the UK to assess their exposure to and knowledge of renal transplantation.
Results
Although 46% of responding students had examined a transplant recipient, only 14% had ever witnessed the surgery. Worryingly, 9% of students believed that xenotransplantation commonly occurs in the UK and 35% were unable to name a single drug that a recipient may need to take.
Conclusions
This survey demonstrates a lack of exposure to, and knowledge of, the field of renal transplantation. Recommendations to address the problems with the recruitment of surgeons and donation of organs, by targeting medical students are made.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-32
PMCID: PMC544359  PMID: 15617572
2.  Teaching statistics to medical students using problem-based learning: the Australian experience 
Background
Problem-based learning (PBL) is gaining popularity as a teaching method in UK medical schools, but statistics and research methods are not being included in this teaching. There are great disadvantages in omitting statistics and research methods from the main teaching. PBL is well established in Australian medical schools. The Australian experience in teaching statistics and research methods in curricula based on problem-based learning may provide guidance for other countries, such as the UK, where this method is being introduced.
Methods
All Australian medical schools using PBL were visited, with two exceptions. Teachers of statistics and medical education specialists were interviewed. For schools which were not visited, information was obtained by email.
Results
No Australian medical school taught statistics and research methods in a totally integrated way, as part of general PBL teaching. In some schools, statistical material was integrated but taught separately, using different tutors. In one school, PBL was used only for 'public health' related subjects. In some, a parallel course using more traditional techniques was given alongside the PBL teaching of other material. This model was less successful than the others.
Conclusions
There are several difficulties in implementing an integrated approach. However, not integrating is detrimental to statistics and research methods teaching, which is of particular concern in the age of evidence-based medicine. Some possible ways forward are suggested.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-31
PMCID: PMC539273  PMID: 15588318
3.  Critical appraisal skills training for health care professionals: a randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN46272378] 
Introduction
Critical appraisal skills are believed to play a central role in an evidence-based approach to health practice. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness and costs of a critical appraisal skills educational intervention aimed at health care professionals.
Methods
This prospective controlled trial randomized 145 self-selected general practitioners, hospital physicians, professions allied to medicine, and healthcare managers/administrators from the South West of England to a half-day critical appraisal skills training workshop (based on the model of problem-based small group learning) or waiting list control. The following outcomes were assessed at 6-months follow up: knowledge of the principles necessary for appraising evidence; attitudes towards the use of evidence about healthcare; evidence seeking behaviour; perceived confidence in appraising evidence; and ability to critically appraise a systematic review article.
Results
At follow up overall knowledge score [mean difference: 2.6 (95% CI: 0.6 to 4.6)] and ability to appraise the results of a systematic review [mean difference: 1.2 (95% CI: 0.01 to 2.4)] were higher in the critical skills training group compared to control. No statistical significant differences in overall attitude towards evidence, evidence seeking behaviour, perceived confidence, and other areas of critical appraisal skills ability (methodology or generalizability) were observed between groups. Taking into account the workshop provision costs and costs of participants time and expenses of participants, the average cost of providing the critical appraisal workshops was approximately £250 per person.
Conclusions
The findings of this study challenge the policy of funding 'one-off' educational interventions aimed at enhancing the evidence-based practice of health care professionals. Future evaluations of evidence-based practice interventions need to take in account this trial's negative findings and methodological difficulties.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-30
PMCID: PMC539272  PMID: 15585061
4.  Personal health promotion at US medical schools: a quantitative study and qualitative description of deans' and students' perceptions 
Background
Prior literature has shown that physicians with healthy personal habits are more likely to encourage patients to adopt similar habits. However, despite the possibility that promoting medical student health might therefore efficiently improve patient outcomes, no one has studied whether such promotion happens in medical school. We therefore wished to describe both typical and outstanding personal health promotion environments experienced by students in U.S. medical schools.
Methods
We collected information through four different modalities: a literature review, written surveys of medical school deans and students, student and dean focus groups, and site visits at and interviews with medical schools with reportedly outstanding student health promotion programs.
Results
We found strong correlations between deans' and students' perceptions of their schools' health promotion environments, including consistent support of the idea of schools' encouraging healthy student behaviors, with less consistent follow-through by schools on this concept. Though students seemed to have thought little about the relationships between their own personal and clinical health promotion practices, deans felt strongly that faculty members should model healthy behaviors.
Conclusions
Deans' support of the relationship between physicians' personal and clinical health practices, and concern about their institutions' acting on this relationship augurs well for the role of student health promotion in the future of medical education. Deans seem to understand their students' health environment, and believe it could and should be improved; if this is acted on, it could create important positive changes in medical education and in disease prevention.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-29
PMCID: PMC545964  PMID: 15581424
5.  Student responses to the introduction of case-based learning and practical activities into a theoretical obstetrics and gynaecology teaching programme 
Background
The fourth-year Obstetrics and Gynaecology course at our institution had previously been taught using theory classes alone. A new teaching model was introduced to provide a better link with professional practice. We wished to evaluate the impact of the introduction of case discussions and other practical activities upon students' perceptions of the learning process.
Methods
Small-group discussions of cases and practical activities were introduced for the teaching of a fourth-year class in 2003 (Group II; 113 students). Comparisons were made with the fourth-year class of 2002 (Group I; 108 students), from before the new programme was introduced. Students were asked to rate their satisfaction with various elements of the teaching programme. Statistical differences in their ratings were analysed using the chi-square and Bonferroni tests.
Results
Group II gave higher ratings to the clarity of theory classes and lecturers' teaching abilities (p < 0.05) and lecturers' punctuality (p < 0.001) than did Group I. Group II had greater belief that the knowledge assessment tests were useful (p < 0.001) and that their understanding of the subject was good (p < 0.001) than did Group I. Group II gave a higher overall rating to the course (p < 0.05) than did Group I. However, there was no difference in the groups' assessments of the use made of the timetabled hours available for the subject or lecturers' concern for students' learning.
Conclusions
Students were very receptive to the new teaching model.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-26
PMCID: PMC543468  PMID: 15569385
6.  Leniency and halo effects in marking undergraduate short research projects 
Background
Supervisors are often involved in the assessment of projects they have supervised themselves. Previous research suggests that detailed marking sheets may alleviate leniency and halo effects. We set out to determine if, despite using such a marking schedule, leniency and halo effects were evident in the supervisors' marking of undergraduate short research projects (special study modules (SSM)).
Methods
Review of grades awarded by supervisors, second markers and control markers to the written reports of 4th year medical students who had participated in an SSM during two full academic years (n = 399). Paired t-tests were used to compare mean marks, Pearson correlation to look at agreement between marks and multiple linear regression to test the prediction of one mark from several others adjusted for one another.
Results
There was a highly significant difference of approximately half a grade between supervisors and second markers with supervisors marking higher. (t = 3.12, p < 0.01, difference in grade score = 0.42, 95% CI for mean difference 0.18–0.80). There was a high correlation between the two marks awarded for performance of the project and the written report by the supervisor (r = 0.75), but a low-modest correlation between supervisor and second marker (r = 0.28). Linear regression analysis of the influence of the supervisors' mark for performance on their mark for the report gave a non-significant result. This suggests a leniency effect but no halo effect.
Conclusions
This study shows that with the use of structured marking sheet for assessment of undergraduate medical students, supervisors marks are not associated with a halo effect, but leniency does occur. As supervisor assessment is becoming more common in both under graduate and postgraduate teaching new ways to improve objectivity in marking and to address the leniency of supervisors should be sought.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-28
PMCID: PMC538755  PMID: 15569395
7.  A randomized trial comparing digital and live lecture formats [ISRCTN40455708 
Background
Medical education is increasingly being conducted in community-based teaching sites at diverse locations, making it difficult to provide a consistent curriculum. We conducted a randomized trial to assess whether students who viewed digital lectures would perform as well on a measure of cognitive knowledge as students who viewed live lectures. Students' perceptions of the digital lecture format and their opinion as whether a digital lecture format could serve as an adequate replacement for live lectures was also assessed.
Methods
Students were randomized to either attend a lecture series at our main campus or view digital versions of the same lectures at community-based teaching sites. Both groups completed the same examination based on the lectures, and the group viewing the digital lectures completed a feedback form on the digital format.
Results
There were no differences in performance as measured by means or average rank. Despite technical problems, the students who viewed the digital lectures overwhelmingly felt the digital lectures could replace live lectures.
Conclusions
This study provides preliminary evidence digital lectures can be a viable alternative to live lectures as a means of delivering didactic presentations in a community-based setting.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-27
PMCID: PMC535936  PMID: 15569389
8.  Evaluation of an inter-professional workshop to develop a psychosocial assessment and child-centred communication training programme for paediatricians in training 
Background
The quality of psychosocial assessment of children in consultations varies widely. One reason for this difference is the variability in effective mental health and communication training at undergraduate and post-qualification levels. In recognition of this problem, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the United Kingdom have developed the Child in Mind Project that aims to meet this deficit in medical training. This paper describes the evaluation of a workshop that explored the experiences and expectations of health care professionals in the development of a training programme for doctors.
Methods
The one-day inter-professional workshop was attended by 63 participants who were invited to complete evaluation forms before and immediately after the workshop.
Results
The results showed that the workshop was partially successful in providing an opportunity for an inter-professional group to exchange ideas and influence the development of a significant project. Exploring the content and process of the proposed training programme and the opportunity for participants to share experiences of effective practice were valued. Participants identified that the current culture within many health care settings would be an obstacle to successful implementation of a training programme. Working within existing training structures will be essential. Areas for improvement in the workshop included clearer statement of goals at the outset and a more suitable environment for the numbers of participants.
Conclusions
The participants made a valuable contribution to the development of the training programme identifying specific challenges. Inter-professional collaborations are likely to result in more deliverable and relevant training programmes. Continued consultation with potential users of the programme – both trainers and trainees will be essential.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-25
PMCID: PMC535901  PMID: 15555066
9.  Evaluation of a communication skills seminar for students in a Japanese medical school: a non-randomized controlled study 
Background
Little data exist for the effectiveness of communication skills teaching for medical students in non-English speaking countries. We conducted a non-randomized controlled study to examine if a short intensive seminar for Japanese medical students had any impact on communication skills with patients.
Methods
Throughout the academic year 2001–2002, a total of 105 fifth-year students (18 groups of 5 to 7 students) participated, one group at a time, in a two-day, small group seminar on medical interviewing. Half way through the year, a five-station objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) was conducted for all fifth-year students. We videotaped all the students' interaction with a standardized patient in one OSCE station that was focused on communication skills. Two independent observers rated the videotapes of 50 students who had attended the seminar and 47 who had not. Sixteen core communication skills were measured. Disagreements between raters were resolved by a third observer's rating.
Results
There was a statistically significant difference in proportions of students who were judged as 'acceptable' in one particular skill related to understanding patient's perspectives: asking how the illness or problems affected the patient's life, (53% in the experimental group and 30% in the control group, p = .02). No differences were observed in the other 15 core communication skills, although there was a trend for improvement in the skill for asking the patient's ideas about the illness or problems (60% vs. 40%, p = .054) and one of the relationship building skills; being attentive and empathic nonverbally (87% vs. 72%, p = .064).
Conclusion
The results of this study suggest that a short, intensive small group seminar for Japanese medical students may have had a short-term impact on specific communication skills, pertaining to understanding patient's perspectives.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-24
PMCID: PMC534797  PMID: 15550166
10.  The impact of two multiple-choice question formats on the problem-solving strategies used by novices and experts 
Background
Pencil-and-paper examination formats, and specifically the standard, five-option multiple-choice question, have often been questioned as a means for assessing higher-order clinical reasoning or problem solving. This study firstly investigated whether two paper formats with differing number of alternatives (standard five-option and extended-matching questions) can test problem-solving abilities. Secondly, the impact of the alternatives number on psychometrics and problem-solving strategies was examined.
Methods
Think-aloud protocols were collected to determine the problem-solving strategy used by experts and non-experts in answering Gastroenterology questions, across the two pencil-and-paper formats.
Results
The two formats demonstrated equal ability in testing problem-solving abilities, while the number of alternatives did not significantly impact psychometrics or problem-solving strategies utilized.
Conclusions
These results support the notion that well-constructed multiple-choice questions can in fact test higher order clinical reasoning. Furthermore, it can be concluded that in testing clinical reasoning, the question stem, or content, remains more important than the number of alternatives.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-23
PMCID: PMC533882  PMID: 15530166
11.  Student evaluation of an OSCE in paediatrics at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica 
Background
The Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies first implemented the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) in the final MB Examination in Medicine and Therapeutics during the 2000–2001 academic year. Simultaneously, the Child Health Department initiated faculty and student training, and instituted the OSCE as an assessment instrument during the Child Health (Paediatric) clerkship in year 5. The study set out to explore student acceptance of the OSCE as part of an evaluation of the Child Health clerkship.
Methods
A self-administered questionnaire was completed by successive groups of students immediately after the OSCE at the end of each clerkship rotation. Main outcome measures were student perception of examination attributes, which included the quality of instructions and organisation, the quality of performance, authenticity and transparency of the process, and usefulness of the OSCE as an assessment instrument compared to other formats.
Results
There was overwhelming acceptance of the OSCE in Child Health with respect to the comprehensiveness (90%), transparency (87%), fairness (70%) and authenticity of the required tasks (58–78%). However, students felt that it was a strong anxiety-producing experience. And concerns were expressed regarding the ambiguity of some questions and inadequacy of time for expected tasks.
Conclusion
Student feedback was invaluable in influencing faculty teaching, curriculum direction and appreciation of student opinion. Further psychometric evaluation will strengthen the development of the OSCE.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-22
PMCID: PMC526209  PMID: 15488152
12.  Enhancing the African bioethics initiative 
Background
Medical ethics has existed since the time of Hippocrates. However, formal training in bioethics did not become established until a few decades ago. Bioethics has gained a strong foothold in health sciences in the developed world, especially in Europe and North America. The situation is quite different in many developing countries. In most African countries, bioethics – as established and practiced today in the west- is either non-existent or is rudimentary.
Discussion
Though bioethics has come of age in the developed and some developing countries, it is still largely "foreign" to most African countries. In some parts of Africa, some bioethics conferences have been held in the past decade to create research ethics awareness and ensure conformity to international guidelines for research with human participants. This idea has arisen in recognition of the genuine need to develop capacity for reviewing the ethics of research in Africa. It is also a condition required by external sponsors of collaborative research in Africa. The awareness and interest that these conferences have aroused need to be further strengthened and extended beyond research ethics to clinical practice. By and large, bioethics education in schools that train doctors and other health care providers is the hook that anchors both research ethics and clinical ethics.
Summary
This communication reviews the current situation of bioethics in Africa as it applies to research ethics workshops and proposes that in spite of the present efforts to integrate ethics into biomedical research in Africa, much still needs to be done to accomplish this. A more comprehensive approach to bioethics with an all-inclusive benefit is to incorporate formal ethics education into health training institutions in Africa.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-21
PMCID: PMC528730  PMID: 15488145
13.  Appraising and applying evidence about a diagnostic test during a performance-based assessment 
Background
The practice of Evidence-based Medicine requires that clinicians assess the validity of published research and then apply the results to patient care. We wanted to assess whether our soon-to-graduate medical students could appraise and apply research about a diagnostic test within a clinical context and to compare our students with peers trained at other institutions.
Methods
4th year medical students who previously had demonstrated competency at probability revision and just starting first-year Internal Medicine residents were used for this research. Following an encounter with a simulated patient, subjects critically appraised a paper about an applicable diagnostic test and revised the patient's pretest probability given the test result.
Results
The medical students and residents demonstrated similar skills at critical appraisal, correctly answering 4.7 and 4.9, respectively, of 6 questions (p = 0.67). Only one out of 28 (3%) medical students and none of the 15 residents were able to correctly complete the probability revision task (p = 1.00).
Conclusions
This study found that most students completing medical school are able to appraise an article about a diagnostic test but few are able to apply the information from the article to a patient. These findings raise questions about the clinical usefulness of the EBM skills possessed by graduating medical students within the area of diagnostic testing.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-20
PMCID: PMC526196  PMID: 15482600
14.  Description and evaluation of an EBM curriculum using a block rotation 
Background
While previous authors have emphasized the importance of integrating and reinforcing evidence-based medicine (EBM) skills in residency, there are few published examples of such curricula. We designed an EBM curriculum to train family practice interns in essential EBM skills for information mastery using clinical questions generated by the family practice inpatient service. We sought to evaluate the impact of this curriculum on interns, residents, and faculty.
Methods
Interns (n = 13) were asked to self-assess their level of confidence in basic EBM skills before and after their 2-week EBM rotation. Residents (n = 21) and faculty (n = 12) were asked to assess how often the answers provided by the EBM intern to the inpatient service changed medical care. In addition, residents were asked to report how often they used their EBM skills and how often EBM concepts and tools were used in teaching by senior residents and faculty. Faculty were asked if the EBM curriculum had increased their use of EBM in practice and in teaching.
Results
Interns significantly increased their confidence over the course of the rotation. Residents and faculty felt that the answers provided by the EBM intern provided useful information and led to changes in patient care. Faculty reported incorporating EBM into their teaching (92%) and practice (75%). Residents reported applying the EBM skills they learned to patient care (86%) and that these skills were reinforced in the teaching they received outside of the rotation (81%). All residents and 11 of 12 faculty felt that the EBM curriculum had improved patient care.
Conclusions
To our knowledge, this is the first published EBM curriculum using an individual block rotation format. As such, it may provide an alternative model for teaching and incorporating EBM into a residency program.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-19
PMCID: PMC524496  PMID: 15476556
15.  Mapping medical careers: Questionnaire assessment of career preferences in medical school applicants and final-year students 
Background
The medical specialities chosen by doctors for their careers play an important part in the workforce planning of health-care services. However, there is little theoretical understanding of how different medical specialities are perceived or how choices are made, despite there being much work in general on this topic in occupational psychology, which is influenced by Holland's RIASEC (Realistic-Investigative-Artistic-Social-Enterprising-Conventional) typology of careers, and Gottfredson's model of circumscription and compromise. In this study, we use three large-scale cohorts of medical students to produce maps of medical careers.
Methods
Information on between 24 and 28 specialities was collected in three UK cohorts of medical students (1981, 1986 and 1991 entry), in applicants (1981 and 1986 cohorts, N = 1135 and 2032) or entrants (1991 cohort, N = 2973) and in final-year students (N = 330, 376, and 1437). Mapping used Individual Differences Scaling (INDSCAL) on sub-groups broken down by age and sex. The method was validated in a population sample using a full range of careers, and demonstrating that the RIASEC structure could be extracted.
Results
Medical specialities in each cohort, at application and in the final-year, were well represented by a two-dimensional space. The representations showed a close similarity to Holland's RIASEC typology, with the main orthogonal dimensions appearing similar to Prediger's derived orthogonal dimensions of 'Things-People' and 'Data-Ideas'.
Conclusions
There are close parallels between Holland's general typology of careers, and the structure we have found in medical careers. Medical specialities typical of Holland's six RIASEC categories are Surgery (Realistic), Hospital Medicine (Investigative), Psychiatry (Artistic), Public Health (Social), Administrative Medicine (Enterprising), and Laboratory Medicine (Conventional). The homology between medical careers and RIASEC may mean that the map can be used as the basis for understanding career choice, and for providing career counselling.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-18
PMCID: PMC524180  PMID: 15461786
16.  Using email reminders to engage physicians in an Internet-based CME intervention 
Background
Engaging practicing physicians in educational strategies that reinforce guideline adoption and improve the quality of healthcare may be difficult. Push technologies such as email offer new opportunities to engage physicians in online educational reinforcing strategies. The objectives are to investigate 1) the effectiveness of email announcements in engaging recruited community-based primary care physicians in an online guideline reinforcement strategy designed to promote Chlamydia screening, 2) the characteristics of physicians who respond to email announcements, as well as 3) how quickly and when they respond to email announcements.
Methods
Over a 45-week period, 445 recruited physicians received up to 33 email contacts announcing and reminding them of an online women's health guideline reinforcing CME activity. Participation was defined as physician log-on at least once to the website. Data were analyzed to determine participation, to compare characteristics of participants with recruited physicians who did not participate, and to determine at what point and when participants logged on.
Results
Of 445 recruited physicians with accurate email addresses, 47.2% logged on and completed at least one module. There were no significant differences by age, race, or specialty between participants and non-participants. Female physicians, US medical graduates and MDs had higher participation rates than male physicians, international medical graduates and DOs. Physicians with higher baseline screening rates were significantly more likely to log on to the course. The first 10 emails were the most effective in engaging community-based physicians to complete the intervention. Physicians were more likely to log on in the afternoon and evening and on Monday or Thursday.
Conclusions
Email course reminders may enhance recruitment of physicians to interventions designed to reinforce guideline adoption; physicians' response to email reminders may vary by gender, degree, and country of medical training. Repetition of email communications contributes to physician online participation.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-17
PMCID: PMC521491  PMID: 15453911
17.  Perceptions of first and third year medical students on self-study and reporting processes of problem-based learning 
Background
The objective of this study is to investigate the perceptions of first and third year medical students on self-study and reporting processes of Problem-based Learning (PBL) sessions and their usage of learning resources.
Methods
The questionnaire applied to the students consisted of; questions about students' perceptions on searching and preparing phases of the self-study process, the breadth and depth of discussion during reporting phase and the usage of learning resources.
Results
First-year students spent more time for self-study and more highly rated the depth of discussion compared to third-year students. The searching and preparing phases of the self-study process were considered as statistically important factors strongly influencing the breadth and depth of discussion during the reporting phase. The effect of extensiveness of searching on the depth of discussion was negative among the first-year students, and positive among third-year students.
Conclusions
The relative shortness of third-year students' self-study periods can be related to their mental weariness, decreased motivation or first-year students' slowness in accessing appropriate resources. The third-year students' more frequent use of textbooks may be due to the improvement of their abilities in reaching relevant learning resources. The findings implied that the increase in students' PBL experience paralleled the development of their discussion skills using different learning resources.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-16
PMCID: PMC524374  PMID: 15385051
18.  Consumers as tutors – legitimate teachers? 
Background
The aim of this study was to research the feasibility of training mental health consumers as tutors for 4th year medical students in psychiatry.
Methods
A partnership between a consumer network and an academic unit in Psychological Medicine was formed to jointly develop a training package for consumer tutors and a curriculum in interviewing skills for medical students. Student attitudes to mental health consumers were measured pre and post the program. All tutorial evaluation data was analysed using univariate statistics. Both tutors and students evaluated the teaching program using a 4 point rating scale. The mean scores for teaching and content for both students and tutors were compared using an independent samples t-test.
Results
Consumer tutors were successfully trained and accredited as tutors and able to sustain delivery of tutorials over a 4 year period. The study found that whilst the medical students started with positive attitudes towards consumers prior to the program, there was a general trend towards improved attitude across all measures. Other outcomes for tutors and students (both positive and negative) are described.
Conclusions
Consumer tutors along with professional tutors have a place in the education of medical students, are an untapped resource and deliver largely positive outcomes for students and themselves. Further possible developments are described.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-14
PMCID: PMC524164  PMID: 15377386
19.  A preliminary report of an educational intervention in practice management 
Background
Practice management education continues to evolve, and little information exists regarding its curriculum design and effectiveness for resident education. We report the results of an exploratory study of a practice management curriculum for primary care residents.
Methods
After performing a needs assessment with a group of primary care residents at Wright State University, we designed a monthly seminar series covering twelve practice management topics. The curriculum consisted of interactive lectures and practice-based application, whenever possible. We descriptively evaluated two cognitive components (practice management knowledge and skills) and the residents' evaluation of the curriculum.
Results
The mean correct on the knowledge test for this group of residents was 74% (n = 12) and 91% (n = 12) before and after the curriculum, respectively. The mean scores for the practice management skill assessments were 2.62 before (n = 12), and 3.65 after (n = 12) the curriculum (modified Likert, 1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). The residents rated the curriculum consistently high.
Conclusions
This exploratory study suggests that this curriculum may be useful in developing knowledge and skills in practice management for primary care residents. This study suggests further research into evaluation of this curriculum may be informative for practice-based education.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-15
PMCID: PMC520819  PMID: 15380023
20.  Explaining computation of predictive values: 2 × 2 table versus frequency tree. A randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN74278823] 
Background
Involving patients in decision making on diagnostic procedures requires a basic level of statistical thinking. However, innumeracy is prevalent even among physicians. In medical teaching the 2 × 2 table is widely used as a visual help for computations whereas in psychology the frequency tree is favoured. We assumed that the 2 × 2 table is more suitable to support computations of predictive values.
Methods
184 students without prior statistical training were randomised either to a step-by-step self-learning tutorial using the 2 × 2 table (n = 94) or the frequency tree (n = 90). During the training session students were instructed by two sample tasks and a total of five positive predictive values had to be computed. During a follow-up session 4 weeks later participants had to compute 5 different tasks of comparable degree of difficulty without having the tutorial instructions at their disposal. The primary outcome was the correct solution of the tasks.
Results
There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups. About 58% achieved correct solutions in 4–5 tasks following the training session and 26% in the follow-up examination.
Conclusions
These findings do not support the hypothesis that the 2 × 2 table is more valuable to facilitate the calculation of positive predictive values than the frequency tree.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-13
PMCID: PMC514564  PMID: 15301689
21.  Medical Students' and Residents' preferred site characteristics and preceptor behaviours for learning in the ambulatory setting: a cross-sectional survey 
Background
Medical training is increasingly occurring in the ambulatory setting for final year medical students and residents. This study looks to identify if gender, school, level of training, or speciality affects learner's (final year medical students and residents) preferred site characteristics and preceptor behaviours for learning in the ambulatory setting.
Methods
All final year medical students and residents at the five medical schools in Ontario (N = 3471) were surveyed about the site characteristics and preceptor behaviours most enhancing their learning in the ambulatory setting. Preferred site characteristics and preceptor behaviours were rank ordered. Factor analysis grouped the site characteristics and preceptor behaviours into themes which were then correlated with gender, school, level of training, and speciality.
Results
Having an adequate number and variety of patients while being supervised by enthusiastic preceptors who give feedback and are willing to discuss their reasoning processes and delegate responsibility are site characteristics and preceptor behaviours valued by almost all learners. Some teaching strategies recently suggested to improve efficiency in the ambulatory teaching setting, such as structuring the interview for the student and teaching and reviewing the case in front of the patient, were found not to be valued by learners. There was a striking degree of similarity in what was valued by all learners but there were also some educationally significant differences, particularly between learners at different levels and in different specialities. Key findings between the different levels include preceptor interaction being most important for medical students as opposed to residents who most value issues pertaining to patient logistics. Learning resources are less valued early and late in training. Teaching and having the case reviewed in front of the patient becomes increasingly less valued as learners advance in their training. As one approaches the end of ones' training office management instruction becomes increasingly valued. Differences between specialities pertain most to the type of practice residents will ultimately end up in (ie: office based specialties particularly valuing instruction in office management and health care system interaction).
Conclusions
Preceptors need to be aware of, and make efforts to provide, teaching strategies such as feedback and discussing clinical reasoning, that learners have identified as being helpful for learning. If strategies identified as not being valued for learning, such as teaching in front of the patient, must continue it will be important to explore the barriers they present to learning. Although what all learners want from their preceptors and clinic settings to enhance their learning is remarkably similar, being aware of the educationally significant differences, particularly for learners at different levels and in different specialities, will enhance teaching in the ambulatory setting.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-12
PMCID: PMC514563  PMID: 15298710
22.  Resident interest and factors involved in entering a pediatric pulmonary fellowship 
Background
Relatively little is known about interest in pediatric pulmonology among pediatric residents. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to determine at this institution: 1) the level of pediatric resident interest in pursuing a pulmonary fellowship, 2) potential factors involved in development of such interest, 3) whether the presence of a pulmonary fellowship program affects such interest.
Methods
A questionnaire was distributed to all 52 pediatric residents at this institution in 1992 and to all 59 pediatric residents and 14 combined internal medicine/pediatrics residents in 2002, following development of a pulmonary fellowship program.
Results
Response rates were 79% in 1992 and 86% in 2002. Eight of the 43 responders in 1992 (19%) had considered doing a pulmonary fellowship compared to 7 of 63 (11%) in 2002. The highest ranked factors given by the residents who had considered a fellowship included wanting to continue one's education after residency, enjoying caring for pulmonary patients, and liking pulmonary physiology and the pulmonary faculty. Major factors listed by residents who had not considered a pulmonary fellowship included not enjoying the tracheostomy/ventilator population and chronic pulmonary patients in general, and a desire to enter general pediatrics or another fellowship. Most residents during both survey periods believed that they would be in non-academic or academic general pediatrics in 5 years. Only 1 of the 106 responding residents (~1%) anticipated becoming a pediatric pulmonologist.
Conclusions
Although many pediatric residents consider enrolling in a pulmonary fellowship (~10–20% here), few (~1% here) will actually pursue a career in pediatric pulmonology. The presence of a pulmonary fellowship program did not significantly alter resident interest, though other confounding factors may be involved.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-11
PMCID: PMC503396  PMID: 15274742
Academic medicine; career paths; fellowship training; subspecialty practice.
23.  A pediatric digital storytelling system for third year medical students: The Virtual Pediatric Patients 
Background
Computer-based patient simulations (CBPS) are common, effective, instructional methods for medical students, but have limitations.
The goal of this project was to describe the development of a CBPS designed to overcome some of these limitations and to perform an online evaluation.
Methods
In 1996, patients and families experiencing a common pediatric problem were interviewed, photographed and a chart review completed. A digital storytelling template was developed: 1. patient's story, evaluation and clinical course, 2. problem-based approach to the evaluation, and 3. discussion of disease process. The media was digitized and placed onto the Internet. The digital stories and a 10-question online survey were pilot tested. Online survey responses were collected from 1999–2003. Overall use of the digital stories was measured by computer server logs and by the number of hyperlinks to the CBPS.
Results
Eight stories were created using this system. Over 4.5 years, 814,148 digital story pages were read by 362,351 users. Hyperlink citations from other websites to the CBPS were 108. Online survey respondents (N = 393) described the overall quality as excellent or very good (88.4%). The stores were clearly written (92%) at an appropriate level (91.4%). Respondents felt they could begin to evaluate a similar case presentation (95.4%), and would remember the case in the future (91%).
Conclusions
A new type of CBPS, the digital storytelling system, has been developed and evaluated which and appears to be successful in overcoming some of the limitations of earlier CBPS by featuring patient's stories in their own words, by focusing on problems rather than diseases, and by having stories that are quick for students to work through.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-10
PMCID: PMC493274  PMID: 15260883
medical students; medical education; computer based patient simulations; problem based learning; digital stories; PDL; CAI
24.  Facilitators' influence on student PBL small group session online information resource use: a survey 
Background
In problem-based learning curricular research has focused on the characteristics of good facilitators and how they influence student performance and satisfaction. Far less frequently addressed has been the question of how PBL facilitators influence the small group session activity of students. We investigated the impact that facilitators' encouragement of use or non-use of the Internet would have on the students' use of online information resources.
Methods
Survey of student and facilitator perceptions of facilitator behavior and student use of online information resources.
Results
Students who used online information resources rated their facilitators' behavior as more encouraging, while students in groups who didn't use online information resources during problem-based learning small group sessions rated their facilitators' behavior as less encouraging. This result was statistically significant.
Conclusions
Our study supports the role of the facilitator as an influence on medical students in small groups, particularly with respect to facilitator verbal behavior encouraging or discouraging student use of information technology in the problem-based learning small group session.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-9
PMCID: PMC441393  PMID: 15198805
25.  Using a formative simulated patient exercise for curriculum evaluation 
Background
It is not clear that teaching specific history taking, physical examination and patient teaching techniques to medical students results in durable behavioural changes. We used a quasi-experimental design that approximated a randomized double blinded trial to examine whether a Participatory Decision-Making (PDM) educational module taught in a clerkship improves performance on a Simulated Patient Exercise (SPE) in another clerkship, and how this is influenced by the time between training and assessment.
Methods
Third year medical students in an internal medicine clerkship were assessed on their use of PDM skills in an SPE conducted in the second week of the clerkship. The rotational structure of the third year clerkships formed a pseudo-randomized design where students had 1) completed the family practice clerkship containing a training module on PDM skills approximately four weeks prior to the SPE, 2) completed the family medicine clerkship and the training module approximately 12 weeks prior to the SPE or 3) had not completed the family medicine clerkship and the PDM training module at the time they were assessed via the SPE.
Results
Based on limited pilot data there were statistically significant differences between students who received PDM training approximately four weeks prior to the SPE and students who received training approximately 12 weeks prior to the SPE. Students who received training 12 weeks prior to the SPE performed better than those who received training four weeks prior to the SPE. In a second comparison students who received training four weeks prior to the SPE performed better than those who did not receive training but the differences narrowly missed statistical significance (P < 0.05).
Conclusion
This pilot study demonstrated the feasibility of a methodology for conducting rigorous curricular evaluations using natural experiments based on the structure of clinical rotations. In addition, it provided preliminary data suggesting targeted educational interventions can result in marked improvements in the clinical skills spontaneously exhibited by physician trainees in a setting different from which the skills were taught.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-8
PMCID: PMC419360  PMID: 15140263

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