The teaching and practice of cardiac auscultation during internal medicine and cardiology training. A nationwide survey

Ann Intern Med. 1993 Jul 1;119(1):47-54. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-119-1-199307010-00009.


Objectives: To assess the time and importance given to cardiac auscultation during internal medicine and cardiology training and to evaluate the auscultatory proficiency of medical students and physicians-in-training.

Study design: A nationwide survey of internal medicine and cardiology program directors and a multicenter cross-sectional assessment of students' and housestaff's auscultatory proficiency.

Setting: All accredited U.S. internal medicine and cardiology programs and nine university-affiliated internal medicine and cardiology programs.

Participants: Four hundred ninety-eight (75.6%) of all 659 directors surveyed; 203 physicians-in-training and 49 third-year medical students.

Interventions: Directors completed a 23-item questionnaire, and students and trainees were tested on 12 prerecorded cardiac events.

Main outcome measures: The teaching and proficiency of cardiac auscultation at all levels of training.

Results: Directors attributed great importance to cardiac auscultation and thought that more time should be spent teaching it. However, only 27.1% of internal medicine and 37.1% of cardiology programs offered any structured teaching of auscultation (P = 0.02). Programs without teaching were more likely to be large, university affiliated, and located in the northeast. The trainees' accuracy ranged from 0 to 56.2% for cardiology fellows (median, 21.9%) and from 2% to 36.8% for medical residents (median, 19.3%). Residents improved little with year of training and were never better than third-year medical students.

Conclusions: A low emphasis on cardiac auscultation appears to have affected the proficiency of medical trainees. Our study raises concern about the future of this time-honored art and, possibly, other bedside diagnostic skills.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cardiology / education*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Curriculum / statistics & numerical data*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Fellowships and Scholarships
  • Heart Auscultation / standards
  • Heart Auscultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / education*
  • Internship and Residency
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States