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Med Educ Online. 2012;17. doi: 10.3402/meo.v17i0.18391. Epub 2012 May 16.

An innovative quality improvement curriculum for third-year medical students.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.



Competence in quality improvement (QI) is a priority for medical students. We describe a self-directed QI skills curriculum for medical students in a 1-year longitudinal integrated third-year clerkship: an ideal context to learn and practice QI.


Two groups of four students identified a quality gap, described existing efforts to address the gap, made quantifying measures, and proposed a QI intervention. The program was assessed with knowledge and attitude surveys and a validated tool for rating trainee QI proposals. Reaction to the curriculum was assessed by survey and focus group.


Knowledge of QI concepts did not improve (mean knowledge score±SD): pre: 5.9±1.5 vs. post: 6.6±1.3, p=0.20. There were significant improvements in attitudes (mean topic attitude score±SD) toward the value of QI (pre: 9.9±1.8 vs. post: 12.6±1.9, p=0.03) and confidence in QI skills (pre: 13.4±2.8 vs. post: 16.1±3.0, p=0.05). Proposals lacked sufficient analysis of interventions and evaluation plans. Reaction was mixed, including appreciation for the experience and frustration with finding appropriate mentorship.


Clinical-year students were able to conduct a self-directed QI project. Lack of improvement in QI knowledge suggests that self-directed learning in this domain may be insufficient without targeted didactics. Higher order skills such as developing measurement plans would benefit from explicit instruction and mentorship. Lessons from this experience will allow educators to better target QI curricula to medical students in the clinical years.


experiential learning; quality improvement education; self-directed learning; undergraduate medical education

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