ACGME has sent a subtle message by decreasing emphasis on procedural skills by eradicating the requirement of showing manual proficiency in most bedside procedures as a requirement for certification. The omission has left individual residency programs and hospitalist groups to determine training and proficiency requirements for more invasive bedside procedures without a national standard.
In an editorial in the March 2007 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, F. Daniel Duffy, MD, and Eric Holmboe, MD, wrote that the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) could only give a “qualified ‘yes’” to the question of whether residents should be trained in procedures they may not perform in practice. Although the authors asserted that the relaxed ABIM policy was “an important but small step toward revamping procedure skill training during residency,” others say it portrays an image of the ABIM de-emphasizing the importance of procedural training.
In addition, the recently established Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine (FPHM) pathway to ABIM Maintenance of Certification (MOC) has no requirement to show proficiency in bedside procedures.
“The absence of the procedural requirement in no way constitutes a statement that procedural skills are not important,” says Jeff Wiese, MD, FACP, SFHM, associate professor of medicine and residency program director at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, chair of the ABIM Hospital Medicine MOC Question Writing Committee, and former SHM president. “Rather, it is merely a practical issue with respect to making the MOC process applicable to all physicians engaged in hospital medicine (i.e. many hospitalists do not do procedures) while still making the MOC focused on the skill sets that are common for physicians doing hospital medicine.”
Once released into the world, even if trained well in residency, hospitalists can find it difficult to maintain their skills. In community and nonteaching settings, the pressure to admit and discharge in a timely manner can make procedures seem like the easiest corner to cut. Before long, it has been months since they have laid eyes on a needle of any sort. Many begin to develop performance anxiety.
In teaching hospitals, academic hospitalists often are called upon to participate in quality improvement (QI) and research efforts, which take time away from clinical rotations. Once there, it can be easy for a ward attending to rely upon a well-trained resident to supervise interns doing procedures. The lack of first-hand or even supervisory experience can lead to many academic hospitalists losing facility with procedures, with potentially disastrous results.
“In order to supervise a group of residents, the attending needs to be technically proficient and able to salvage a botched, or failed, procedure,” UM-JMH’s Dr. Lenchus says. “To this end, we strictly limit who can attend on the service.”
So what’s a residency or HM program director to do in the face of wavering support nationally, and sometimes locally, for maintaining procedural skills for hospitalists and trainees? Many hospitalists in teaching hospitals say it’s critical for clinicians to “get their own house in order,” to maintain procedural standards of proficiency with ongoing training, education, and verification.
“The profession now needs to redesign procedural training across the continuum of education and a lifetime of practice,” Drs. Duffy and Holmboe editorialized in the March 2007 Annals paper. “This approach would recognize the varied settings of internal-medicine practice and offer manual skills training to those whose practice settings require such skills.” Hospitalists can partner with medicine residency program leaders to provide procedural education and training to residents, either as a standalone elective or as a more general resource.