Which Student Characteristics Are Most Important in Determining Clinical Honors in Clerkships? A Teaching Ward Attending Perspective

Academic Article


  • Purpose To explore faculty perspectives on which characteristics of high-performing clerkship students are most important when determining an honors or top grade designation for clinical performance. Method In 2016-2017, the authors surveyed faculty (teaching ward attendings) for internal medicine clerkships and 1 pediatrics clerkship in inpatient settings at 5 U.S. academic medical centers. Survey items were framed around competencies, 24 student characteristics, and attitudes toward evaluation. Factor analysis examined constructs defining high-performing students. Results Of 516 faculty invited, 319 (62%) responded. The top 5 characteristics as rated by respondents were taking ownership, clinical reasoning, curiosity, dependability, and high ethical standards (in descending order). Twenty-one characteristics fit into 3 factors (Cronbach alpha, 0.81-0.87). Clinical reasoning did not fit into a factor. Factor 1 was the most important (mean rating, 8.7/10 [95% confidence interval (CI), 8.6-8.8]). It included professionalism components (ownership, curiosity, dependability, high ethical standards), presentation and interviewing skills, seeking feedback, and documentation. Factor 2 (mean, 7.9 [95% CI, 7.7-8.0]) included aspects of teamwork and communication, such as positive attitude and comments from others. Factor 3 (mean, 7.6 [95% CI, 7.4-7.7]) addressed systems-based thinking, including patient safety and care transitions. Conclusions Professionalism components, clinical reasoning, and curiosity were among the most important characteristics distinguishing high-performing clerkship students. These may represent behaviors that are highly valued, observable, and relevant to training stage. Improved definition of the characteristics associated with clinical honors would assist students, faculty, and residency program directors when interpreting clinical performance within core clerkships.
  • Published In

  • Academic Medicine  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 24852885
  • Author List

  • Herrera LN; Khodadadi R; Schmit E; Willig J; Hoellein A; Knudson C; Law K; Mingioni N; Walsh K; Estrada C
  • Start Page

  • 1581
  • End Page

  • 1588
  • Volume

  • 94
  • Issue

  • 10