BACKGROUND: This paper seeks to contribute to a reputable evidence base for required competencies across different topics in statistics and probability (statistical topics) in preparing medical graduates for clinical practice. This is in order to inform the prioritization of statistical topics within future undergraduate medical curricula, while exploring the need for preparing tomorrow's doctors to be producers, and not merely consumers, of statistics.
METHODS: We conducted a comprehensive online survey from July 2013 to August 2014 for a target group of 462 medical graduates with current or prior experience of teaching undergraduate medical students of the University of Edinburgh of whom 278 (60.2%) responded. Statistical topics were ranked by proportion of respondents who identified the practice of statistics, performing statistical procedures or calculations using appropriate data, as a required competency for medical schools to provide in preparing undergraduate medical students for clinical practice. Mixed effects analyses were used to identify potential predictors for selection of the above competency and to compare the likelihood of this selection for a range of statistical topics versus critical appraisal.
RESULTS: Evidence was gleaned from medical graduates' experiences of clinical practice for the need for, not only a theoretical understanding of statistics and probability but also, the ability to practice statistics. Nature of employment and statistical topic were highly significant predictors of choice of the practice of statistics as a required competency ((F = 3.777, p < 0.0005) and (F = 45.834, p < 0.0005), respectively). The most popular topic for this competency was graphical presentation of data (84.3% of respondents) in contrast to cross-over trials for the competency understanding the theory only (70.5% of respondents). Several topics were found to be more popular than critical appraisal for competency in the practice of statistics.
CONCLUSIONS: The model of medical graduates as mere consumers of statistics is oversimplified. Contrary to what has been suggested elsewhere, statistical learning opportunities in undergraduate medicine should not be restricted to development of critical appraisal skills. Indeed, our findings support development of learning opportunities for undergraduate medical students as producers of statistics across a wide range of statistical topics.
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- Clinical practice
- Critical appraisal
- Curriculum design
- Statistical learning
- Statistics education research
- Undergraduate medicine