Context: Traditional methods of setting curricular guidelines using experts or consensus panels may miss important areas of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that need to be addressed in the training of medical students and residents.
Objective: To seek input from medical students and internal medicine residents ("trainees") on their perception of their needs for training in Geriatrics.
Design: Two assessment methods were used (1) focus groups with students and residents were conducted by professional facilitators and the transcripts analyzed for areas of agreement and divergence and (2) geriatric medicine experts and ward attendings were surveyed to examine training gaps raised by trainees during Geriatric Guest Attending Rounds.
Results: Trainees perceived training gaps in caring for elderly patients in the areas of (1) recognizing and addressing the complex, multifactorial nature of illness; (2) setting priorities and goals for work-up and intervention; (3) communication with families and with patients with cognitive disorders; (4) assessment of a patient for discharge from the hospital and the services at different sites in which patients may receive care. They recounted feeling overwhelmed by complex patients and social situations while acknowledging the special aspects of connecting with older patients. The gaps identified by trainees differ from and complement the curriculum guidelines set by expert recommendations.
Conclusion: Trainees identified gaps in skills and knowledge leading to trainee frustration and potentially adverse outcomes in caring for elderly patients. Development of curriculum guidelines should include assessment of trainees' perceived learning needs.