Resolutions address Clinical Skills Course and USMLE prep for graduates

Last month, the Academic Board approved a resolution to ensure that students are at the top of their game with hands-on clinical skills when they begin rotations. A second resolution ensures that OUM graduates on the non-USMLE track have access to OUM test prep resources upon graduation.

Beginning Term 1904, the Clinical Skills Course (CSC) will be divided into two parts: Basic Clinical Skills (seven-week didactic online pre-clinical curriculum) and Advanced Clinical Skills (one week onsite, live component with head-to-toe exam). An unintended consequence of the eight-week CSC or the Day-One Clinical Skills was an occasional lag of up to 12 months between the time a student completed the clinical skills course and the time he or she actually begins clinical rotations. Moving forward, for all students enrolled in the eight-week Clinical Skills Course or the Day-One Clinical Skills, the final week of live, hands on demonstrations and the required head-to-toe physical exam, now Advanced Clinical Skills, will be carved out and will be taken when the student is close to beginning rotations.

“When I envisioned the course, I never anticipated there would be this huge downtime between completion of the clinical skills course and the beginning of rotations,” says Dr. Paula Diamante, Director of Faculty Affairs and course architect. “This change will ensure hands-on clinical skills are top of mind when the student starts rotations,” she says.

Students subject to passing USMLE Step 1 prepare for and pass the In-House Exam and USMLE Step 1 after completing Basic Clinical Skills and the pre-clinical curriculum. After USMLE, they commence with Advanced Clinical Skills as a pre-requisite to all clinical clerkships.

The minimum enrollment in the on-site live course will be five in Australia and five in the US. For US students, the live on-site course (Advanced Clinical Skills) should be taken after the In-House Exam is passed and either before or after USMLE Step 1. Regardless, it must be completed before clinical clerkships commence.

A student may substitute the on-site Advanced Clinical Skills course with the four-week clinical skills course in Samoa, as long as it is the first course taken in the clinical phase (see previous newsletter story here).

Students are reminded that a minimum score of 75 is required in order to pass the Basic and Advanced Clinical Skills courses.

USMLE Step 1 support for OUM graduates

The second resolution allows OUM graduates who were in the non-USMLE track to access OUM prep resources and the In-House Examination for assessment of USMLE readiness. Passing USMLE is necessary in order to practice medicine in the USA.

OUM graduates who decide they would like to take USMLE Step 1 are eligible to enroll in the Basic Science Immersion (BSI), Accelerated Structured Study Protocol (A-SSP), or Study Hall-SSP (SH-SSP). The BSI is an 8-week offering which requires approximately 14 hours of study time per day (7 days/week), the A-SSP is a 16-week offering which requires approximately 8 hours of study time per day (7 days/week), and the SH-SSP is a 36-week offering which requires approximately 4 hours of study time per day (7 days/week). Self-study and commercial prep courses are alternatives. The content of the three OUM courses is identical; the only difference is the amount of time the graduate is able to dedicate to studying.

“Very few people attend medical school without intending to practice. I view the USMLE test prep offerings as an attempt on OUM’s part to help students in the non-USMLE track in any way we can, should they decide they may want to practice in the US. But in the end, it is the student’s responsibility to learn the material,” says Dr. Scott Cunningham, Director of Curriculum. “How much time students can dedicate to their studies will help determine the best course for them,” he adds.

Since the “student” in this case is a graduate, OUM cannot mandate that the student take the prep courses prior to sitting for the USMLE Step 1, but Chris Dudley, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Administration & Student Affairs, says he hopes students accept this resolution in the spirit of support in which it is being offered.

“The University has the students’ best interests at heart. The reality is that, for students who switch to the non-USMLE track and commence clerkships, it is extremely difficult to prepare for USMLE Step 1 during their rotations,” says Dudley. “Generally, the half-life of basic science knowledge is very short, and it is unlikely that the average OUM graduate would be able to retain a sufficient amount to pass Step 1 after graduation. These offerings help fill in those knowledge gaps.”

Graduates wishing to take USMLE Step 1 must take the In-House Exam and receive an assessment of their preparation for USMLE Step 1 before they will be certified with the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) to register for the exam.  A In-House Exam passing score of 80 percent is not required for graduates wishing to take USMLE, only an agreement that they will not take USMLE until they are ready for it.

Preventing Research Delays

A third resolution that passed applying to new students, was born out of the experiences of some current students who have met with delays in graduation because they started their research projects too late.

The resolution requires students matriculating in Term 1904 and beyond to complete their research prospectus and have it approved before they are allowed to begin clinical clerkships. This resolution is designed to insure that research is well under way before students enter their clinical clerkships, so that it may be completed well within the time leading up to Graduation.