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Br J Gen Pract. Sep 2003; 53(494): 677–682.
PMCID: PMC1314689

Acquisition of clinical skills in postgraduate training for general practice.


BACKGROUND: Postgraduate training in general practice aims to develop clinical competence. However, little is known about its effect on trainees' development of clinical skills. AIM: To assess the acquisition of clinical skills during a 3-year training programme and to evaluate whether a satisfactory level is achieved towards the end of training. DESIGN OF STUDY: Cross-sectional design. SETTING: Dutch postgraduate training in general practice from 1995 to 1998. METHOD: Clinical skills were assessed using a written knowledge test of skills and by an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). The written test was administered to trainees in all 3 years. Trainees at completion of their training took the OSCE. The results of both tests were compared with a standard of adequacy and to a reference group of general practitioner (GP) trainers. RESULTS: An increase in the level of clinical skills and pass rate was found throughout the training, being most prominent during the first 6 months. At completion of their training, trainees scored higher than the GPs on the written test (48% versus 39%) and on the OSCE (69% versus 63%). Eighty-eight per cent of the trainees would have passed the written test against 70% of the GPs and 94% would have passed the OSCE against 80% of the GPs. CONCLUSION: A 3-year postgraduate training period in general practice contributes to a satisfactory acquisition of clinical skills. Further research into when and where acquisition takes place, and the role of the GP trainer, is needed.

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