Since at the time of graduation from medical school physicians are expected to demonstrate adequate professional competence including mastery of critical appraisal skills, we conducted a preliminary, cross-sectional, web-based study to examine the extent to which fourth year medical students in the US are competent in core areas of evidence-based medicine (EBM). Using self-assessment instruments, subjects (n = 150) were asked to demonstrate their ability to understand the practical meaning of key methodological and data analysis constructs as they relate to patient care, to rate their perceived competence in core areas of EBM and to disclose their attitudes toward critical appraisal of the literature and EBM. The mean score in our cohort was 55% suggesting that students may have knowledge gaps that interfere with their ability to critically appraise the medical literature. There was an apparent chasm between subjects' perceived competence and their actual performance on the assessment instrument. These findings, if corroborated in larger studies, (1) suggest that better education in EBM is needed so as to avoid the possibility that patient care may inadvertently be jeopardized; and (2) cast doubt on the use of self-assessed knowledge as a proxy for actual skills with respect to EBM and medical decision-making.
ASJC Scopus subject areas