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GMS Z Med Ausbild. 2012;29(3):Doc45. doi: 10.3205/zma000815. Epub 2012 May 15.

Retrospective adjustment of self-assessed medical competencies - noteworthy in the evaluation of postgraduate practical training courses.

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Universitätsklinik für Hämatologie und Hämatologisches Zentrallabor, Inselspital, Bern, Schweiz.



The efficacy of postgraduate practical training courses is frequently evaluated by self-assessment instruments. The present study analyses the effect of a basic course in laparoscopic surgery on self-assessed medical competencies.


The 3-day course included teaching of knowledge and training of practical skills. In relation to course evaluation, a questionnaire for self-assessment was applied at the beginning of the course ('pre-course'), at the end of the course ('post-course') and at the end of the course to reassess pre-course competencies ('retrospective pre-course').


89 out of 110 participants (81%) attending 10 courses completed all the questionnaires; 83% were postgraduate trainees in surgery and 82% were inexperienced as an independent surgeon. At the beginning of the course most trainees rated themselves as 'moderately competent' or 'fully competent' with respect to the various task levels as well as to specific areas of medical competencies. At the end of the course however pronounced retrospective revisions of self-assessment to lower ratings became apparent. Statistically significant differences were seen for the task 'performing surgical procedures under supervision' and for most of the practical skills trained during the course (p <0.01). In contrast, no significant differences were observed for knowledge taught during the course as well as for 'ability to work in a team' and 'ability to concentrate', which were not foci of the course.


Surgeons with little experience change their self-assessment of pre-course competencies to a lower level after participation in a practical postgraduate training course. Evaluations comparing 'pre-course' and 'post-course' ratings only - without 'retrospective pre-course' ratings - may underestimate the training effects. This phenomenon needs to be taken into account when evaluations are dependent exclusively on self-assessment instruments.


clinical competence; diagnostic self-evaluation; evaluation studies; laparoskopy/*education; medical education

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