Background: We undertook a needs assessment exercise using questionnaire survey of junior doctors' knowledge and beliefs concerning evidence-based medicine (EBM) and critical literature appraisal, as this is a core competence in postgraduate medical education.
Methods: We surveyed 317 junior doctors in various specialities in the UK West Midlands Deanery. Using validated questionnaires we compared the needs of different trainee groups. Results overall were internally consistent (Cronbach's alpha 0.929).
Results: Respondents' generally felt that they had poor training in EBM (Mean score 2.2, possible range 1-6) and that they needed more education (Mean score 5.3, possible range 1-6). Male trainees felt more confident at evaluating statistical tests than females (p = 0.002). Female trainees considered patient choice above the evidence more often than males (p = 0.038). Trainees from surgical speciality felt more confident at assessing research evidence (p = 0.009) whereas those from medical speciality felt more confident at evaluating statistical tests (p = 0.038) than other specialities. However, non-surgical specialities tended to believe that EBM had little impact on practice (p = 0.029). Respondents who had been qualified for 11 years or over felt overall more confident in their knowledge relating to EBM than those who had been qualified less than 10 years. In particular, they felt more confident at being able to assess study designs (p = < 0.001) and the general worth of research papers (p = < 0.001). Trainees with prior research experience were less likely to find original work confusing (p = 0.003) and felt more confident that they can assess research evidence (p = < 0.001) compared to those without previous research experience. Trainees without previous research experience felt that clinical judgement was more important than evidence (p = < 0.001).
Conclusion: There is a perceived deficit in postgraduate doctors' EBM knowledge and critical appraisal skills. Learning needs vary according to gender, place of basic medical qualification, time since graduation, prior research experience and speciality. EBM training curricular development should take into account the findings of our needs assessment study.