Preparing graduates for the first year of residency: are medical schools meeting the need?

Acad Med. 2003 Jan;78(1):39-44. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200301000-00009.


Purpose: Changes in graduate medical education associated with full implementation of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 have required medical schools to review and revise their curricula. As limited funding increases pressures to streamline training, residencies will potentially expect an entry level of skill and competence that is greater than that which schools are currently providing. To determine whether medical school curricular requirements correlate with residency needs, this multidisciplinary pilot study investigated expectations and prerequisites for postgraduate specialty training.

Method: A questionnaire about 100 skills and competencies expected of new first-year residents was sent to 50 U.S. residency directors from surgery, internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics-gynecology programs. Each director was asked to state expectations of a first-year resident's competence in each skill at entry to residency and after three months of training. Skills deemed most appropriately acquired in residency were also identified. Competencies included diagnosis, management, triage, interpretation of data, informatics and technology, record keeping, interpersonal communications, and manual skills.

Results: A total of 39 residency directors responded, including seven surgery, nine medicine, seven family medicine, eight pediatrics, and eight obstetrics-gynecology. In addition to physical examination skills, 13 competencies achieved more than 70% agreement as being entry-level skills. There was wide variability as to the relative importance of the remaining skills, with residency directors expecting to devote significant resources and time in early training to ensure competence.

Conclusions: Medical schools should consider the expectations of their students' future residency directors when developing new curricula. Assuring students' competencies through focused curricular change should save both time and resources during residency.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / standards*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Medicine
  • Specialization
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States