Return of the final assessment moves students on to graduation

Congratulations to the Australian students who passed their OSCEs.

OUM was finally able to conduct OSCEs last month in Brisbane, the first since April of this year. A session was scheduled for July, but COVID travel restrictions in Australia and New Zealand postponed them. The 20 November session was also scaled back because of border closures — only Queensland and Western Australia students were able to participate because both states had no community-acquired cases.

“COVID has played havoc with the lives of all medical students,” says David Mountford, MBBS, FRACGP, MFM, Associate Dean, Clinical Skills, OSCE coordinator, and creator/instructor of the prep course. “As with many countries, here in Australia and New Zealand, that inability to pass this final clinical exam meant there were not enough medical school graduates to fill internship positions.”

Thankfully for OUM students — and for post-graduate coordinators in AUS/NZ — two more OSCE sessions have been booked for February 2022, only a couple of months away. “We hope these will ‘clear the deck’ of students forced to delay their graduation because of COVID,” says Dr. Mountford, emphasizing the importance of preparation to a candidate’s success.

“There is a clear set of rules associated with the OSCEs. Students presenting for them without preparation are at quite a disadvantage, which is why I decided to run the prep course,” he says. “Once students schedule to take the exam, they are sent all the information they need to know well before their OSCEs. The cases are much more easily managed if the candidate has had exposure to the exam process, the types of cases, and being ‘put on the spot’ while handling a case.”

The OSCEs cover 16 cases, three OB-GYN, three pediatric, and the remainder spread over other core disciplines. The exams are conducted and completed in one day, eight cases in the morning session and eight cases in the afternoon. Examiners assess:

Key Features: This points out the candidate’s ability to identify the key features of the case and then progress through to diagnosis/management.

Level of Performance Observed: This puts the microscope on the candidate’s approach to the patient and can be broadly described as his/her “bed-side manner,” involving how the history is taken, the focused physical examination, and explanation of the patient’s diagnosis or management.

Critical Errors: Quite simply, this refers to mistakes that may be made which could cause harm or detriment to the patient.

Lastly, each examiner asks him/herself the question “Would I hire this person as a first-year intern?”

Kudos on earning perfect scores — students credit prep course

Two Australian students distinguished themselves by earning perfect scores during their OSCEs, Hollie McBride of Claremont North, Western Australia, and Derek Ross of Bonbeach, Victoria.

“Students who earn perfect scores set themselves apart as extremely competent, professional, bright, and caring individuals with a wonderful work ethic,” says Dr. Mountford. “In addition to their high scores, Hollie and Derek consistently turned up for our Sunday evening prep courses and were willing and engaged participants. Some students dropped in and out and did not seem to take the programme seriously,” he adds.

One school of thought, regarding the attainment of clinical skills and critical thinking, sees these skills as “something you pick up along the way,” according to Dr. Mountford — who disagrees.

“My view has always been that clinical skills need to be taught, and a large part of the OSCE Prep Course is involved with getting the students to think clinically. Both Hollie and Derek latched onto critical thinking very well. It is a wonderful tool that helps each consultation ‘work’ better. I told them that I thought they would enjoy the exam, and they did,” he says.

Hollie and Derek both credit their OSCE success to the new prep course.

“I attribute my OSCE result to Dr. Mountford’s weekly preparation sessions and to the 100’s of simulated OSCEs I did over the couple of months leading up to the exam. My advice to other students is to attend Dr. Mountford’s sessions while also putting in the hours with your study partner. There is no substitute for these two things,” says Derek who immediately turned to preparing for the AMC MCQ which he will sit in February 2022.

Though originally planning to complete his final clinical rotations in Australia, Derek found himself in Samoa when COVID broke out, so — unable to leave the country — he completed his remaining clerkships at TTM Hospital. Hollie completed all her clinical rotations at TTM, under the direction of Dr. Viali Lameko, Dean for Samoa and the Asia-Pacific.

“I had a period of about 4 months between finishing rotations and returning to Australia before I could sit my OSCE. I truly believe this was the perfect amount of time for me to consolidate the knowledge I had gained and adapt it for OSCEs. Dr. Mountford’s sessions with other OUM students really gave me a guided and structured approach of how to prepare for the OSCEs,” says Hollie, who also is preparing for the AMC MCQ, which she will sit in the first half of 2022.

OUM’s next OSCEs will be held 5 and 12 February 2022, again in Brisbane. Students interested in registering for the exam or the prep course should contact Dr. Mountford (david.mountford@oum.edu.ws).

(December 2021)