Increasing the Educational Value of the Orthopaedic Subinternship: The Design and Implementation of a Fourth-Year Medical Student Curriculum

J Am Acad Orthop Surg Glob Res Rev. 2021 Jan 19;5(1):e20.00240. doi: 10.5435/JAAOSGlobal-D-20-00240.


Introduction: Most orthopaedic subinternships function as month-long interviews. These rotations remain relatively unstructured and lack standardization, and their overall educational value has been called into question. The goals of this educational initiative were to create a structured subinternship curriculum for orthopaedic applicants and to shift the focus of the subinternship from a month-long interview to an organized educational experience.

Methods: After review of knowledge and skills expected for early orthopaedic residency under the structure of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Milestones, a curriculum dedicated to orthopaedic subinternships was created. Students who completed the curriculum filled out anonymous Likert scale evaluations (rating their comfort/knowledge from 0 to 10 before and after their rotation) and answered open-ended qualitative questions.

Results: Forty-six subinterns participated in the program over 3 years. Four weekly learning modules were designed and taught by orthopaedic residents, with faculty oversight of content and structure. Each monthly rotation began with an orthopaedic surgical skills laboratory and concluded with a case-based oral presentation. Weeks two and three covered different milestone-based topics and included didactic and skills development. Data analysis revealed that students reported notable improvement in knowledge and familiarity with each of the topics. The greatest improvements were in tibia intramedullary nailing and applying a tension band to an olecranon fracture. When asked which surgical skills station was the most helpful, 70% chose lag screw insertion and basic plating techniques. All students felt that creating their case presentation was productive.

Conclusion: This educational initiative resulted in the successful design and implementation of a milestone-based orthopaedic surgery subinternship curriculum. The program was well received by students, contributed to learning and competency, and provided teaching opportunities for residents. The format and content of this subinternship curriculum can easily be adapted to regional and national teaching programs.