Purpose: To assess the optimal structure of an introductory curriculum (IC) for radiation oncology residents, including the perceived utility of a 2-day off-site "boot camp," and evaluate the success of a pilot introductory radiation oncology curriculum (IROC) based on these initial data.
Methods and materials: In the first phase, anonymous, web-based surveys were sent to US radiation oncology program directors and residents. Likert-type scores (1, not at all; 5, extremely) are reported as the median and interquartile range. Using the phase 1 results, IROC was developed, piloted, and evaluated.
Results: Of the 89 program directors and 697 residents, 47 (53%) and 165 (24%) responded, respectively. Of the 89 program directors, 37 (79%) reported offering a formal IC. However, only 83 residents (50%) reported having a formal IC. Program directors reported resident preparation for clinical training as "moderate" (median 3, interquartile range 2-3) on entering residency and "moderate" (median 3, interquartile range 3-4) after IC completion (P = .03). However, residents only believed they were "slightly" prepared (median 2, interquartile range 1-2) on entering residency and "moderately" (median 3, interquartile range 2-3) prepared after IC completion (P < .01). Program directors believed an off-site boot camp would be of "moderate" utility (median 3, interquartile range 3-4) with participation limited by funding (57%). Residents without an IC reported that having an IC would be "quite" beneficial (median 4, interquartile range 3-5). Residents preferred instruction before the clinical training (49%) and over 1 week (40%). Both program directors and residents rated lectures on radiation emergencies and simulation highly. Using these data, IROC was developed and piloted with incoming residents at 4 institutions. After IROC, residents reported improvement in overall preparedness for clinical training (before: median 1, interquartile range 1-2; vs after: median 3, interquartile range 2-3; P < .01) and among specific practice domains.
Conclusions: Beginning radiation oncology residents frequently lack structured introductory curricula but desire instruction before the clinical training with a focus on practical aspects (emergency management, contouring). Program directors recognize the value of both off-site and on-site boot camps. An on-site IC could mitigate funding barriers. A standardized IC, IROC, piloted at 4 programs, showed promising outcomes.
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