Background: Valid and reliable (dependable) assessment of resident clinical skills is essential for learning, promotion, and remediation. Competency is defined as what a physician can do, whereas performance is what a physician does in everyday practice. There is an ongoing need for valid and reliable measures of resident clinical performance.
Methods: Anesthesia residents were evaluated confidentially on a weekly basis by faculty members who supervised them. The electronic evaluation form had five sections, including a rating section for absolute and relative-to-peers performance under each of the six Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education core competencies, clinical competency committee questions, rater confidence in having the resident perform cases of increasing difficulty, and comment sections. Residents and their faculty mentors were provided with the resident's formative comments on a biweekly basis.
Results: From July 2008 to June 2010, 140 faculty members returned 14,469 evaluations on 108 residents. Faculty scores were pervasively positively biased and affected by idiosyncratic score range usage. These effects were eliminated by normalizing each performance score to the unique scoring characteristics of each faculty member (Z-scores). Individual Z-scores had low amounts of performance information, but signal averaging allowed determination of reliable performance scores. Average Z-scores were stable over time, related to external measures of medical knowledge, identified residents referred to the clinical competency committee, and increased when performance improved because of an intervention.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates a reliable and valid clinical performance assessment system for residents at all levels of training.