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Open Access Research article

Are Canadian General Internal Medicine training program graduates well prepared for their future careers?

Sharon E Card1*, Linda Snell2 and Brian O'Brien3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

2 Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

3 Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

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BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:56  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-56

Published: 17 November 2006

Abstract

Background

At a time of increased need and demand for general internists in Canada, the attractiveness of generalist careers (including general internal medicine, GIM) has been falling as evidenced by the low number of residents choosing this specialty. One hypothesis for the lack of interest in a generalist career is lack of comfort with the skills needed to practice after training, and the mismatch between the tertiary care, inpatient training environment and "real life". This project was designed to determine perceived effectiveness of training for 10 years of graduates of Canadian GIM programs to assist in the development of curriculum and objectives for general internists that will meet the needs of graduates and ultimately society.

Methods

Mailed survey designed to explore perceived importance of training for and preparation for various aspects of Canadian GIM practice. After extensive piloting of the survey, including a pilot survey of two universities to improve the questionnaire, all graduates of the 16 universities over the previous ten years were surveyed.

Results

Gaps (difference between importance and preparation) were demonstrated in many of the CanMEDS 2000/2005® competencies. Medical problems of pregnancy, perioperative care, pain management, chronic care, ambulatory care and community GIM rotations were the medical expert areas with the largest gaps. Exposure to procedural skills was perceived to be lacking. Some procedural skills valued as important for current GIM trainees and performed frequently (example ambulatory ECG interpretation) had low preparation ratings by trainees. Other areas of perceived discrepancy between training and practice included: manager role (set up of an office), health advocate (counseling for prevention, for example smoking cessation), and professional (end of life issues, ethics).

Conclusion

Graduates of Canadian GIM training programs over the last ten years have identified perceived gaps between training and important areas for practice. They have identified competencies that should be emphasized in Canadian GIM programs. Ongoing review of graduate's perceptions of training programs as it applies to their current practice is important to ensure ongoing appropriateness of training programs. This information will be used to strengthen GIM training programs in Canada.