General competencies of problem-based learning (PBL) and non-PBL graduates

Med Educ. 2005 Apr;39(4):394-401. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2005.02107.x.


Introduction: Junior doctors have reported shortcomings in their general competencies, such as organisational skills and teamwork. We explored graduates' perceptions of how well their training had prepared them for medical practice and in general competencies in particular. We compared the opinions of graduates from problem-based learning (PBL) and non-PBL schools, because PBL is supposed to enhance general competencies.

Method: We analysed the responses of 1159 graduates from 1 PBL and 4 non-PBL schools to a questionnaire survey administered 18 months after graduation.

Results: Compared with their non-PBL colleagues, the PBL graduates gave higher ratings for the connection between school and work, their medical training and preparation for practice. According to the graduates, the most frequently used competencies with sufficient coverage during medical training were expert knowledge, profession-specific skills and communication skills. The majority of the PBL graduates, but less than half of the non-PBL graduates, indicated that communication skills had been covered sufficiently. All the graduates called for more curriculum attention on working with computers, planning and organisation, and leadership skills. More PBL graduates than non-PBL graduates indicated that they had learned profession-specific methods, communication skills and teamwork in medical school.

Discussion: Overall, the graduates appeared to be satisfied with their knowledge and skills. The results suggest that the PBL school provided better preparation with respect to several of the competencies. However, both PBL and non-PBL graduates identified deficits in their general competencies, such as working with computers and planning and organising work. These competencies should feature more prominently in undergraduate medical education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • Netherlands
  • Problem-Based Learning / standards*