Objectives: To assess competency and confidence in ECG interpretation in medical students across years of medical school and evaluate the associations of various factors, a curriculum change, and student confidence with ECG competency.
Methods: Four hundred and fourteen (414) third- to sixth-year medical students participated in this cross-sectional study conducted in 2019 in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. A voluntary response sample of participants answered a validated, web-based questionnaire, composed of eight ECG strips. Participants were also asked about confidence and sources for ECG education and exposure. Competency and confidence across medical school years were compared using the ANOVA and chi-square tests.
Results: Competency was low overall (mean score, SD (standard deviation) 3.23±1.81 out of 8), and higher in sixth-year students compared to third-, fourth- and fifth-year students (4.37±1.69 vs. 2.90±1.82, 2.90±1.54, 2.50±1.56, respectively, F(3,337)=24.425, p<0.0001). There was no difference between students before and after the curriculum change. Work experience in medicine was associated with competency (odds ratio (OR), 7.97; 95% confidence interval (CI), 4.03-15.77, p<0.0001). The reported confidence level was low (median 2 out of 5) and was found to be correlated with the total score achieved (r(332)=0.5, p<0.0001).
Conclusions: Student competency was shown to be insufficient throughout medical school. Competency and confidence in ECG interpretation seem to be significantly improved by increased and repetitive exposure to ECG. Thus, strategies to facilitate better ECG skills should involve an extended focus on ECG in the undergraduate and graduate curricula and include competency-based educational programs.
Keywords: competency; confidence; electrocardiogram (ecg) interpretation; israel; medical students.