Medical graduate views on statistical learning needs for clinical practice: a comprehensive survey

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Abstract

Background: This paper seeks to contribute to a reputable evidence base for required competencies acrossdifferent topics in statistics and probability (statistical topics) in preparing medical graduates for clinical practice.This is in order to inform the prioritization of statistical topics within future undergraduate medical curricula, whileexploring the need for preparing tomorrow’s doctors to be producers, and not merely consumers, of statistics.Methods: We conducted a comprehensive online survey from July 2013 to August 2014 for a target group of 462medical graduates with current or prior experience of teaching undergraduate medical students of the University ofEdinburgh of whom 278 (60.2%) responded. Statistical topics were ranked by proportion of respondents whoidentified the practice of statistics, performing statistical procedures or calculations using appropriate data, as arequired competency for medical schools to provide in preparing undergraduate medical students for clinicalpractice. Mixed effects analyses were used to identify potential predictors for selection of the above competencyand to compare the likelihood of this selection for a range of statistical topics versus critical appraisal.Results: Evidence was gleaned from medical graduates’ experiences of clinical practice for the need for, not only atheoretical understanding of statistics and probability but also, the ability to practice statistics. Nature ofemployment and statistical topic were highly significant predictors of choice of the practice of statistics as arequired competency ((F = 3.777, p < 0.0005) and (F = 45.834, p < 0.0005), respectively). The most popular topic forthis competency was graphical presentation of data (84.3% of respondents) in contrast to cross-over trials for thecompetency understanding the theory only (70.5% of respondents). Several topics were found to be more popularthan critical appraisal for competency in the practice of statistics.Conclusions: The model of medical graduates as mere consumers of statistics is oversimplified. Contrary to whathas been suggested elsewhere, statistical learning opportunities in undergraduate medicine should not berestricted to development of critical appraisal skills. Indeed, our findings support development of learningopportunities for undergraduate medical students as producers of statistics across a wide range of statistical topics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Medical Education
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019

Keywords

  • Clinical practice, Critical appraisal, Curriculum design, Statistical learning, Statistics education research, Undergraduate medicine

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