Purpose: To investigate whether medical students' performance on a family medicine clerkship objective structured clinical exam (OSCE) differed when the standardized patient (SP) had a disability versus when the SP did not have a disability.
Method: SPs with spinal cord injury (SP-SCI), SPs with intellectual disability (SP-ID), and SPs without a disability participated separately in two OSCE scenarios that were administered by the University of South Carolina School of Medicine's Department of Family and Preventive Medicine from 2007 to 2009. OSCE scores were determined based on the number of critical actions completed by the student, and scores were analyzed to determine differences among scenarios.
Results: Students scored lower in history, physical exam, lab tests, and interpersonal skills with an SP-SCI, and lower in history, physical exam, and lab tests with an SP-ID than did students interacting with SPs without a disability. The odds ratio for ordering a hemoglobin A1c in one scenario was 4.16 times higher in cases when the SP did not have a disability (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.78–9.17, P = .001). In the second scenario, the odds ratio was 3.08 times higher for ordering a urinalysis (95% CI 1.34–7.08, P = .006) and was 2.15 times higher for providing lifestyle counseling (95% CI 1.04–4.44, P = .038) in students interacting with SPs without a disability.
Conclusions: Students performed better when the SP did not have a disability. This suggests that greater emphasis should be placed on teaching appropriate care of patients with a disability.