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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Undergraduate medical student perceptions and use of Evidence Based Medicine: A qualitative study

Dragan Ilic* and Kristian Forbes

Author Affiliations

Monash Institute of Health Services Research, School of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:58  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-58

Published: 19 August 2010

Abstract

Background

Many medical schools teach the principles of Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) as a subject within their medical curriculum. Few studies have explored the barriers and enablers that students experience when studying medicine and attempting to integrate EBM in their clinical experience. The aim of this study was to identify undergraduate medical student perceptions of EBM, including their current use of its principles as students and perceived future use as clinicians.

Methods

Third year medical students were recruited via email to participate in focus group discussions. Four focus groups were conducted separately across four hospital sites. All focus groups were conducted by the same facilitator. All discussions were transcribed verbatim, and analysed independently by the two authors according to the principles of thematic analysis.

Results

Focus group discussions were conducted with 23 third-year medical students, representing three metropolitan and one rural hospital sites. Five key themes emerged from the analysis of the transcripts: (1) Rationale and observed use of EBM in practice, (2) Current use of EBM as students, (3) Perceived use of EBM as future clinicians, (4) Barriers to practicing EBM, and (5) Enablers to facilitate the integration of EBM into clinical practice. Key facilitators for promoting EBM to students include competency in EBM, mentorship and application to clinical disciplines. Barriers to EBM implementation include lack of visible application by senior clinicians and constraints by poor resourcing.

Conclusions

The principles and application of EBM is perceived by medical students to be important in both their current clinical training and perceived future work as clinicians. Future research is needed to identify how medical students incorporate EBM concepts into their clinical practice as they gain greater clinical exposure and competence.