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GMS J Med Educ. 2017 Nov 15;34(5):Doc65. doi: 10.3205/zma001142. eCollection 2017.

Medical students' preparation for the transition to postgraduate training through final year elective rotations.

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University Medical Center Utrecht, School of Medicine, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
University Medical Center Utrecht, Centre for Research and Development of Education, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


in English, German

Objectives: This study adds to the ongoing discussion on how to ease the transition from undergraduate medical training to postgraduate training. In the Netherlands there is no central matching system for admission to residency. Medical school graduates just apply for a position in an open job market. Many choose to acquire general or specialty-specific clinical experiences after the medical degree before residency, to further explore career opportunities and to increase their chances to get into their preferred specialty. To shorten this gap between undergraduate and the start of postgraduate training, the sixth and final year of most Dutch medical schools is designed as a "transitional year". Students work with more clinical responsibilities than in the earlier clerkships, and this year includes many elective options. Our study focuses on these elective options and explores how medical students use these transitional year electives to prepare for transition to postgraduate training. Methods: In 2012-2013 we asked all 274 graduating students at one Dutch medical school to complete an open-answer questionnaire with the following topics: their preferred specialty at the start of the transitional year, electives they chose during this year and reasons for these choices, and whether the transitional year electives changed their career considerations. Questionnaire results were coded by two researchers and were discussed with all members of the research team. Results: A total of 235 students responded (86%). Answers about motivation for choices revealed that most electives where chosen for career orientation and to optimize chances to get into a residency program. Students also focused on additional experiences in specialties related to their preferred specialty. Many students chose electives logically related to each other, e.g. combinations of surgery and radiology. About two-thirds of the respondents stated that their elective experiences did confirm their specialty preferences or resulted in a more clear insight. Conclusion: We conclude that students use the transitional year electives to focus on their future postgraduate training program, i.e. for orientation and to align their curriculum vitae with their preferred specialty, resulting in spontaneous early specialty streaming. To take advantages of this streaming, and to make sure students can transfer their experiences to other specialties if their career preferences change, individual elective Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs), next to the core EPAs for all medical students, may serve to prepare a smooth transition to a specialty of choice and should be fully documented.


Continuing Medical Education; Undergraduate Medical Education

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