The Conscientiousness Index

marina-sawdonMost patients’ complaints to the GMC are about a doctor’s professionalism. But the problem is that professionalism is subjective and difficult to define and measure. We think we have overcome at least part of this problem by developing a tool that monitors conscientiousness, an important part of professionalism. The tool, called the Conscientiousness Index’ (CI) was developed in Durham University and lead by Prof John McLachlan. It consists of points scored by students throughout the year for completion of simple, objective tasks, tasks that a conscientious person would carry out such as handing in assignments on time, attending compulsory session, completing evaluation forms. Our work stems from research carried out in States in the ‘90s that showed that simple administrative tasks such as not handing in a passport photo in the first week at medical school correlated with the likelihood of disciplinary action later on their career as a practising doctor. The CI has been validated against staff and students’ views of the Year 1 and 2 medical undergraduate students’ professionalism and correlates strongly with academic and clinical skills performance. The CI is now part of the summative assessment of professionalism in Phase 1 Medicine, Durham. The CI has been extended to other medical schools (Cork, Ireland) and in the postgraduate health care arena (anaesthetists and paramedics).

Dr Marina Sawdon, Durham University


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