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J Grad Med Educ. 2014 Mar;6(1):106-11. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-13-00146.1.

The "zing factor"-how do faculty describe the best pediatrics residents?



Faculty in graduate medical education programs may not have uniform approaches to differentiating the quality of residents, and reviews of evaluations suggest that faculty use different standards when assessing residents. Standards for assessing residents also do not consistently map to items on evaluation forms. One way to improve assessment is to reach consensus on the traits and behaviors that are (or should be) present in the best residents.


A trained interviewer conducted semistructured interviews with faculty affiliated with 2 pediatrics residency programs until content saturation was achieved. Interviewees were asked to describe specific traits present in residents they identify as the best. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. We used an iterative, inductive approach to generate a coding scheme and identify common themes.


From 23 interviews, we identified 7 thematic categories of traits and behaviors: personality, energy, professionalism, team behaviors, self-improvement behaviors, patient-interaction behaviors, and medical knowledge and clinical skills (including a subcategory, knowledge integration). Most faculty interviewees focused on traits like passion, enthusiasm, maturity, and reliability. Examination score or intelligence was mentioned less frequently than traits and behaviors categorized under personality and professionalism.


Faculty identified many traits and behaviors in the residents they define as the best. The thematic categories had incomplete overlap with Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and CanMEDS competencies. This research highlights the ongoing need to review our assessment strategies, and may have implications for the ACGME Milestone Project.

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