Using Research Techniques to Improve Medical Education

mayoclinic.gif  The November 2006 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings contains four articles that “exhibit the types of medical education research that must continue in the future if we are to further improve 21st century medical education and appropriately recognize innovations and innovators in the field”. Here is the editorial that describes these articles: [free full text]

Habermann TM, Cascino TL. Education scholarship [editorial]. Mayo Clin Proc November 2006; 81 (11): 1423-1424.
Original research is essential in assessing the current status and planning quality-improvement initiatives in basic sciences, applied sciences, and clinical medicine. Medical education is undergoing a revolution—change designed to improve it over time. Factors driving this change include competency-based educational assessment, work hour regulations, cost of education, quality of health care, affordability of care, and patient safety. Education research is essential in studying the current status of and supporting quality improvements in medical education.Despite major changes in modern medical education, there is a woefully inadequate amount of original education research (and funding for that research) to direct and assess the changes. This has had a detrimental trickle down effect on faculty members interested in establishing their credibility and reputation as education innovators; they have all too often failed to adequately document their contributions and publish meaningful and useful results.
In the November 2006 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 4 articles exhibit the types of medical education research that must continue in the future if we are to further improve 21st century medical education and appropriately recognize innovations and innovators in the field.Rose and colleagues report on the complexities that parental leave policies present to graduate medical education. In 1993, the federal government enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act that addresses parental leave. The authors sought to determine how specialty boards were adapting their certification criteria to accommodate the Family and Medical Leave Act regulations. Information was accessed from the Web site of each specialty board, by querying the specialty board via standard electronic mail request, or by contacting administrative personnel from the boards. The different board policies on parental leave range from complete program discretion to proscription of maximal leaves ranging from 7.7% to 15% of the total training period. Most specialty boards do not have specific policies related to parental leave that differ from those that address leave for other purposes. Hence, the maximum amount of leave typically falls within a range of 4 to 6 weeks per year. The variability suggests that specialty-dependent policies may promote and influence career choices. Consequences of exceeding the proscribed maximums include extending training and/or delaying board certification, which the authors point out may lead many female residents to use their vacation time for parental leave, take shorter periods of parental leave than generally (legally) allowed, or avoid having children during residency training. As the model of competency-based education evolves, differences in the way specialty boards treat parental leave may result in varying lengths of training.

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