Following COVID-related postponements, first session is next month in Australia

COVID has interrupted many things during the past 18 months. At OUM, one of the most unfortunate casualties has been the OSCEs.

Thankfully, one OSCE session will finally take place in Brisbane, Queensland (AU) on 20 November at North-West Hospital. Until just days ago a second OSCE session was also scheduled for Australian and New Zealand students, until the Queensland government closed its borders to New South Wales and Victoria. Only those with a close family member who is dying or has died are allowed to enter Queensland and they must quarantine for two weeks and pass a COVID test in order to leave.

The OSCE is now running for students from Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia since those states have no community COVID and students are able to enter Queensland with no quarantine requirements.

The OSCE story

For our newest cohorts, OSCE stands for “Objective Structured Clinical Examination.” In short, they assess students’ clinical skills after their final clinical rotation, through a series of standardized scenarios. Passing them is a graduation requirement at OUM and most other medical schools, as well as a requirement of most licensing bodies and global accreditation agencies, like OUM’s (PAASCU).

“At most universities, OSCEs are a student’s final formal assessment. They were first developed in the mid 1960’s as a way to objectively assess a medical student’s clinical skills,” says Dr. David Mountford, Associate Dean for Australia, who joined the University early this year with OSCE construction and administration one of his primary roles. He also designed and teaches OUM’s online preparation course for the OSCEs.

The format

The OSCEs will cover 16 cases, three OB-GYN, three pediatric, and the remainder spread over other core disciplines. The exams will be conducted and completed in one day, eight cases in the AM and eight cases in the PM. Since a maximum of ten students can be accommodated during a day of OSCEs, two exam days were originally scheduled for next month to accommodate 20 students.

“In addition to stations being graded as 1 to 7 with a score of 4 or above considered passing, examiners ask themselves the simple question ‘Is this person competent enough that I would hire him/her as a first-year intern?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ you will fail the station,” says Dr. Mountford.

While a number of OSCEs were scheduled and rescheduled over the past year, students are now completing their prep course which meets weekly for 1.5 to 2 hours. The prep course is designed for all OUM students to participate in the presentation and examination of OSCE-like cases.

“The OSCE prep course takes the format of a student preparing a case, giving it to another student who has two minutes to take in the situation (“the stem”), then eight minutes to actually do the tasks set out in the stem,” explains Dr. Mountford. “We have rigid timekeeping, just as it is in real OSCE’s. The writer of the stem acts as both patient and examiner, transitioning between the roles as needed. We all discuss the case and the student’s performance. A wider discussion on how one would approach the case in real OSCE’s is then done, and we move onto the next case,” he says.

Anyone with questions regarding OSCEs, or to learn more about the prep course, may contact Dr. Mountford (david.mountford@oum.edu.ws). In North America, those interested in the prep course may contact fourth-year student Patricia Fleuranceau-Morel (patricia.fleuranceau-morel@oum.edu.ws) who is co-coordinating that course’s attendance.

OUM will no longer use a third-party provider to present OSCEs in North America. Dr. Mountford is working with Dr. Sarmad Ghazi, Dean for North America, to set up that region’s OSCEs, hopefully for early 2022. Additional OSCEs for the Australian/New Zealand students will be rescheduled as COVID restrictions permit.

(October 2021)