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OBJECTIVE: Sufficient teaching and assessing clinical skills in the undergraduate setting becomes more and more important. In a surgical skills-lab course at the Medical University of Innsbruck fourth year students were teached with DOPS (direct observation of procedural skills). We analyzed whether DOPS worked or not in this setting, which performance levels could be reached compared to tutor teaching (one tutor, 5 students) and which curricular side effects could be observed.

METHODS: In a prospective randomized trial in summer 2013 (April – June) four competence-level-based skills were teached in small groups during one week: surgical abdominal examination, urethral catheterization (phantom), rectal-digital examination (phantom), handling of central venous catheters. Group A was teached with DOPS, group B with a classical tutor system. Both groups underwent an OSCE (objective structured clinical examination) for assessment. 193 students were included in the study. Altogether 756 OSCE´s were carried out, 209 (27,6%) in the DOPS- and 547 (72,3%) in the tutor-group.

RESULTS: Both groups reached high performance levels. In the first month there was a statistically significant difference (p<0,05) in performance of 95% positive OSCE items in the DOPS-group versus 88% in the tutor group. In the following months the performance rates showed no difference anymore and came to 90% in both groups. In practical skills the analysis revealed a high correspondence between positive DOPS (92,4%) and OSCE (90,8%) results.

DISCUSSION: As shown by our data DOPS furnish high performance of clinical skills and work well in the undergraduate setting. Due to the high correspondence of DOPS and OSCE results DOPS should be considered as preferred assessment tool in a students skills-lab. The approximation of performance-rates within the months after initial superiority of DOPS could be explained by an interaction between DOPS and tutor system: DOPS elements seem to have improved tutoring and performance rates as well. DOPS in students ‘skills-lab afford structured feedback and assessment without increased personnel and financial resources compared to classic small group training.

CONCLUSION: In summary, this study shows that DOPS represent an efficient method in teaching clinical skills. Their effects on didactic culture reach beyond the positive influence of performance rates.


Profanter, C. and Perathoner, A. (2015) DOPS (c) in undergraduate skills-lab: Does it work? Analysis of skills-performance and curricular side effects. GMS Zeitschrift für Medizinische Ausbildung. 32(4), p.Doc45. eCollection 2015.

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