Bringing clerkship grading back to the bedside

Clin Teach. 2021 Jan 11. doi: 10.1111/tct.13325. Online ahead of print.


Background: The hallmark of medical education is learning from patients through interactions at the bedside. However, many medical schools incorporate clinical clerkship grading systems that incentivize time away from patient care activities to focus on examinations of medical knowledge. The purpose of this innovation was to develop a grading system that encouraged development of competencies beyond medical knowledge, including patient care, communication, and professionalism skills.

Methods: In 2016, the authors convened a diverse workgroup to reform the clerkship grading approach at their institution. The group reviewed relevant literature and discussed approaches used by other institutions. They developed a competency-based criterion system. For each of four competency domains (patient care, medical knowledge (examination score), professionalism, and communication/teamwork), students received a designation of inadequate, competent, or exemplary. The highest grade ("honors") was awarded to students who met the criteria for exemplary performance in at least two domains. It was a primarily compensatory model, although to achieve competency (pass) scoring was non-compensatory (acceptable performance in all categories).

Results: A total of 231 medical students received 1499 clerkship grades during the 2018-2019 year. Compared to previous years, more students (40% vs. 15%) received honors. A substantial proportion (43%) received honors without achieving an exemplary designation in the medical knowledge domain (i.e., standardized examination).

Findings and discussion: The revised grading system provided several avenues for students to excel and receive honors in their clerkships allowing for recognition of students who excelled in patient care-related areas other than standardized examinations.