BACKGROUND: It is recognised that newly qualified doctors feel unprepared in many areas of their daily practice and that there is a gap between what students learn during medical school and their clinical responsibilities early in their postgraduate career. This study aimed to assess if undergraduate students and junior paediatric doctors met a Minimum Accepted Competency (MAC) of knowledge.
METHODS: The knowledge of undergraduates and junior paediatric doctors was quantitatively assessed by their performance on a 30-item examination (the MAC examination). The items within this examination were designed by non-academic consultants to test 'must-know' knowledge for starting work in paediatrics. The performance of the students was compared with their official university examination results and with the performance of the junior doctors.
RESULTS: For the undergraduate student cohort (n = 366) the mean examination score achieved was 45.9%. For the junior doctor cohort (n = 58) the mean examination score achieved was significantly higher, 64.2% (p < 0.01). 68% of undergraduate students attained the pass mark for the MAC examination whilst a significantly higher proportion, 97%, passed their official university examination (p < 0.01). A Spearman's rank co-efficient showed a moderate but statistically significant positive correlation between students results in their official university examinations and their score in the MAC examination.
CONCLUSION: This work demonstrates a disparity between both student and junior doctor levels of knowledge with consultant expectations from an examination based on what front-line paediatricians determined as "must-know" standards. This study demonstrates the importance of involvement of end-users and future supervisors in undergraduate teaching.