Clinical Competencies of Graduating Medical Students: 1985

Martin, Yvette M.; Harris, Dona L. PhD; Karg, Miki B.

From the Archives

“Clinical Competencies of Graduating Medical Students.” The Journal of Medical Education. 1985;60:919–24.

Medical education is usually considered a continuum of several overlapping processes. The first part involves mastery of the academic foundation (the science); the second involves mastery of the mechanics (the skills); and the final process involves the integration of the first two parts and the mastery of the “art” of practicing medicine. Much time and research have been devoted to the first and third portions of medical education; however, an extensive literature search by the authors provided little information on the actual mechanics of practicing medicine in terms of what a graduate should be able to do following four years of medical school.

... The problems associated with evaluating clinical skills have been studied and medical educators’ expectations for medical students vary, depending upon the level of education of the students. Obviously, a medical student is not expected to be competent in all areas in which competency is expected of residents, and the level of competency of first-year residents is not equal to that of senior residents.

Although medical schools are designed to begin the medical education process, the end product of that process has never been critically defined. Because of the lack of specific information on the skills and competencies of medical school graduates...a list of minimum clinical expectations can serve as a guide for interactions with medical students. In no way should expectations limit the students’ education. It should always be possible for the student to exceed the expectations of physicians and schools yet to have a common point from which the student and the teacher can begin to work. Also, the correlation between a student's self-evaluation and his actual competency in clinical areas needs to be established. The difficulty in doing this is due to the absence of any reliable method to test students’ competency in performing clinical skills.

Yvette M. Martin

Dona L. Harris, PhD

Miki B. Karg

© 2004 Association of American Medical Colleges