Clinical skills in junior medical officers: a comparison of self-reported confidence and observed competence

Med Educ. 2004 Apr;38(4):358-67. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2004.01773.x.


Background: The intern year is a key time for the acquisition of clinical skills, both procedural and cognitive. We have previously described self-reported confidence and experience for a number of clinical skills, finding high levels of confidence among Australian junior doctors. This has never been correlated with an objective measure of competence.

Aims and hypothesis: We aimed to determine the relationship between self-reported confidence and observed competence for a number of routine, procedural clinical skills.

Methods: A group of 30 junior medical officers in their first postgraduate year (PGY1) was studied. All subjects completed a questionnaire concerning their confidence and experience in the performance of clinical skills. A competency-based assessment instrument concerning 7 common, practical, clinical skills was developed, piloted and refined. All 30 PGY1s then completed an assessment using this instrument. Comparisons were then made between the PGY1s' self-reported levels of confidence and tutors' assessments of their competence.

Results: A broad range of competence levels was revealed by the clinical skills assessments. There was no correlation between the PGY1s' self-ratings of confidence and their measured competencies.

Conclusions: Junior medical officers in PGY1 demonstrate a broad range of competence levels for several common, practical, clinical skills, with some performing at an inadequate level. There is no relationship between their self-reported level of confidence and their formally assessed performance. This observation raises important caveats about the use of self-assessment in this group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Data Collection
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / standards
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / methods
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self-Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires