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MZC Lam, TJ Lee, PY Boey, WF Ng, HW Hey, KY Ho, PY Cheong
Correspondence: Dr Cheong Pak Yean, firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction We assessed the accuracy of physician trainees in identifying different cardiac sounds and examined the factors influencing their cardiac auscultation proficiency.
Methods A total of 106 physicians in the Family Medicine Training Programme were asked to identify 10 cardiac sounds played sequentially on the Littmann electronic stethoscope, which functioned as a surrogate patient. Their auscultation accuracy was scored numerically out of a maximum of 10. Demographical data of the physicians was collected prospectively.
Results The mean (+/-SD) auscultation proficiency score of the study population was 4.0 +/- 1.7. Physicians who graduated in 1994 or earlier fared significantly poorer than those who obtained their Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees between 1995 and 2000 (p-value equals 0.02). Auscultation proficiency was not related to current practice, previous years of primary care, cardiology, internal medicine or paediatric medicine postings, or cumulative years of postings. Normal heart sounds were most accurately identified. Prosthetic cardiac sounds were better identified than other extra-cardiac sounds while systolic murmurs were more accurately identified than diastolic murmurs. Tachycardia had the lowest identification rate.
Conclusion Our data suggest that cardiac auscultation skill declined with time, being significantly impaired eight years after graduation. We suggest that there is a need for retraining in the form of continuing medical education to address not only new knowledge and skills, but also basic skill competency.
Keywords: basic skill competency, cardiac auscultation, continuing medical education, physician training
Singapore Med J 2005; 46(1): 11-14