Statistics teaching in medical school: Opinions of practising doctors
School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, Faculty of Health, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:75 doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-75Published: 4 November 2010
The General Medical Council expects UK medical graduates to gain some statistical knowledge during their undergraduate education; but provides no specific guidance as to amount, content or teaching method. Published work on statistics teaching for medical undergraduates has been dominated by medical statisticians, with little input from the doctors who will actually be using this knowledge and these skills after graduation. Furthermore, doctor's statistical training needs may have changed due to advances in information technology and the increasing importance of evidence-based medicine. Thus there exists a need to investigate the views of practising medical doctors as to the statistical training required for undergraduate medical students, based on their own use of these skills in daily practice.
A questionnaire was designed to investigate doctors' views about undergraduate training in statistics and the need for these skills in daily practice, with a view to informing future teaching. The questionnaire was emailed to all clinicians with a link to the University of East Anglia Medical School. Open ended questions were included to elicit doctors' opinions about both their own undergraduate training in statistics and recommendations for the training of current medical students. Content analysis was performed by two of the authors to systematically categorise and describe all the responses provided by participants.
130 doctors responded, including both hospital consultants and general practitioners. The findings indicated that most had not recognised the value of their undergraduate teaching in statistics and probability at the time, but had subsequently found the skills relevant to their career. Suggestions for improving undergraduate teaching in these areas included referring to actual research and ensuring relevance to, and integration with, clinical practice.
Grounding the teaching of statistics in the context of real research studies and including examples of typical clinical work may better prepare medical students for their subsequent career.