Procedural skills training during emergency medicine residency: are we teaching the right things?

West J Emerg Med. 2009 Aug;10(3):152-6.


Objectives: The Residency Review Committee training requirements for emergency medicine residents (EM) are defined by consensus panels, with specific topics abstracted from lists of patient complaints and diagnostic codes. The relevance of specific curricular topics to actual practice has not been studied. We compared residency graduates' self-assessed preparation during training to importance in practice for a variety of EM procedural skills.

Methods: We distributed a web-based survey to all graduates of the Denver Health Residency Program in EM over the past 10 years. The survey addressed: practice type and patient census; years of experience; additional procedural training beyond residency; and confidence, preparation, and importance in practice for 12 procedures (extensor tendon repair, transvenous pacing, lumbar puncture, applanation tonometry, arterial line placement, anoscopy, CT scan interpretation, diagnostic peritoneal lavage, slit lamp usage, ultrasonography, compartment pressure measurement and procedural sedation). For each skill, preparation and importance were measured on four-point Likert scales. We compared mean preparation and importance scores using paired sample t-tests, to identify areas of under- or over-preparation.

Results: Seventy-four residency graduates (59% of those eligible) completed the survey. There were significant discrepancies between importance in practice and preparation during residency for eight of the 12 skills. Under-preparation was significant for transvenous pacing, CT scan interpretation, slit lamp examinations and procedural sedation. Over-preparation was significant for extensor tendon repair, arterial line placement, peritoneal lavage and ultrasonography. There were strong correlations (r>0.3) between preparation during residency and confidence for 10 of the 12 procedural skills, suggesting a high degree of internal consistency for the survey.

Conclusions: Practicing emergency physicians may be uniquely qualified to identify areas of under- and over-preparation during residency training. There were significant discrepancies between importance in practice and preparation during residency for eight of 12 procedures. There was a strong correlation between confidence and preparation during residency for almost all procedural skills, reenforcing the tenet that residency training is the primary locus of instruction for clinical procedures.