Medical education must adapt to society's changing attitudes

September 07, 2006

What are the challenges facing medical education? This question is discussed in this week's BMJ, ahead of the annual meeting of the Association for Medical Education in Europe.

Medical education needs to adapt to society's changing attitudes, write experts from the University of Maastricht, and they outline four major challenges that need to be tackled if the specialty wants to be taken seriously.

Firstly, practical training must be made more effective to counter reduced working hours, they say. Research has shown that deliberate practice is a far better method to acquire expertise than simple unstructured practice. This involves supervision and detailed feedback, and ample opportunity to improve performance gradually by performing tasks repeatedly. Top athletes and musicians apply a similar approach.

The second challenge is to develop new methods of assessment to reflect the focus on competencies (tasks that a qualified medical professional should be able to handle successfully).

Improving research standards in medical education is another challenge, and the authors suggest that high quality, relevant research requires more interdisciplinary collaboration.

The final major challenge is overcoming negative attitudes to assessment, say the authors. This will involve changing the culture of assessment into one where assessment is informative, helps people to improve their work, and where the goal is not to be better than the others but to be better today than you were yesterday.

One conclusion from all of these challenges is that a close collaboration between doctors and educationalists is indispensable for good medical education and development of better education, they write.


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