The relative contributions of interpersonal and specific clinical skills to the perception of global clinical competence

Benjamin C. Warf, Michael B. Donnelly, Richard W. Schwartz, David A. Sloan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background. The objective structured clinical examination (OSCE), an established instrument for evaluating resident competence, was used to test the hypothesis that faculty assessment of clinical competence in residents at various levels of training may be influenced more by general skills as a physician and less by competency in the actual skills being specifically tested. In this study, advantage was taken of the anticipated observation that general surgery residents did not demonstrate improvement in their ability to perform a focused neurological assessment over time. Methods. An OSCE, which was administered to 56 general surgery residents at all levels of training, included the assessment of a specific clinical neurosurgical problem (sciatica). Univariate and multivariate analyses were used to evaluate the relationship between the global faculty judgment of competent or noncompetent and the other performance measures that were applied. Results. At different levels of training, there was no observed difference in the specific skills being tested; nevertheless, junior and senior residents were more likely than incoming interns to be judged 'competent' and received better evaluations of how well they introduced themselves to the patient. The competence judgment correlated significantly with all of the other performance measures, including the skills being tested. Conclusions. The perception of competence is not solely dependent upon the particular skills under scrutiny. General competence does not guarantee competence in each specific skill set of a medical specialty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-23
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1999


  • Clinical competence
  • Graduate medical education
  • Level of training
  • Objective structured clinical examination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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