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Medical research and audit skills training for undergraduates: an international analysis and student-focused needs assessment


Introduction Interpreting, performing and applying research is a key part of evidence-based medical practice, however, incorporating these within curricula is challenging. This study aimed to explore current provision of research skills training within medical school curricula, provide a student-focused needs assessment and prioritise research competencies.

Methods A international, cross-sectional survey of final year UK and Irish medical students was disseminated at each participating university. The questionnaire investigated research experience, and confidence in the Medical Education in Europe (MEDINE) 2 consensus survey research competencies.

Results Fully completed responses were received from 521 final year medical students from 32 medical schools (43.4% male, mean age 24.3 years). Of these, 55.3% had an additional academic qualification (49.5% Bachelor’s degree), and 38.8% had been a named author on an academic publication. Considering audit and research opportunities and teaching experience, 47.2% reported no formal audit training compared with 27.1% who reported no formal research training. As part of their medical school course, 53.4% had not performed an audit, compared with 29.9% who had not participated in any clinical or basic science research. Nearly a quarter of those who had participated in research reported doing so outside of their medical degree course. Low confidence areas included selecting and performing the appropriate statistical test, selecting the appropriate research method, and critical appraisal. Following adjustment, several factors were associated with increased confidence including previous clinical research experience (OR 4.21, 2.66 to 6.81, P<0.001), additional degrees (OR 2.34, 1.47 to 3.75, P<0.001), and male gender (OR 1.90, 1.25 to 2.09, P=0.003). Factors associated with an increase in perceived opportunities included formal research training in the curriculum (OR 1.66, 1.12 to 2.46, P=0.012), audit skills training in the curriculum (OR 1.52, 1.03 to 2.26, P= 0.036) and research methods taught in a student selected component (OR 1.75, 1.21 to 2.54, P=0.003).

Discussion Nearly one-third of students lacked formal training on undertaking research, and half of students lacked formal audit training and opportunities to undertake audit as part of their medical school course. The presence of research training in the cirriculum was associated with an increase in perceived opportunities to participate in MEDINE2 research competencies. Female gender and a lack of previous research experience were significant factors influencing confidence and participation in research.

  • Research and Development
  • Research Activities
  • Training Programs
  • Educational Activities
  • Education
  • Undergraduate

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