Background: High stakes medical licensing programs are planning to augment and adapt current examinations to be relevant for a two-decision point model for licensure: entry into supervised practice and entry into unsupervised practice. Therefore, identifying which skills should be assessed at each decision point is critical for informing examination development, and gathering input from residency program directors is important.
Methods: Using data from previously developed surveys and expert panels, a web-delivered survey was distributed to 3,443 residency program directors. For each of the 28 procedural and 18 advanced communication skills, program directors were asked which clinical skills should be assessed, by whom, when, and how. Descriptive statistics were collected, and Intraclass Correlations (ICC) were conducted to determine consistency across different specialties.
Results: Among 347 respondents, program directors reported that all advanced communication and some procedural tasks are important to assess. The following procedures were considered 'important' or 'extremely important' to assess: sterile technique (93.8%), advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS) (91.1%), basic life support (BLS) (90.0%), interpretation of electrocardiogram (89.4%) and blood gas (88.7%). Program directors reported that most clinical skills should be assessed at the end of the first year of residency (or later) and not before graduation from medical school. A minority were considered important to assess prior to the start of residency training: demonstration of respectfulness (64%), sterile technique (67.2%), BLS (68.9%), ACLS (65.9%) and phlebotomy (63.5%).
Discussion: Results from this study support that assessing procedural skills such as cardiac resuscitation, sterile technique, and phlebotomy would be amenable to assessment at the end of medical school, but most procedural and advanced communications skills would be amenable to assessment at the end of the first year of residency training or later.
Conclusions: Gathering data from residency program directors provides support for developing new assessment tools in high-stakes licensing examinations.
Keywords: communication and interpersonal skills; high stakes assessment; licensing examination; procedures; residency program directors.