18 May 2020

Nervous wait for revised OSCE plans

COVID-19 General Practice RACGP

It’s another frustration for GPs planning to fellow in the next two years, with the RACGP deciding to replace this year’s OSCE with a transitional assessment ahead of more sweeping changes in 2021.

The College said the decision was made in light of COVID-19 restrictions, which would make the OSCE impossible to deliver in its current format.

The exam, which the RACGP has run for almost 25 years, assesses trainees across 14 clinical cases in various rooms with examiners and role-players.

Dr Sama Balasubramanian, president of the General Practice Registrars Australia (GPRA) said he understood trainees were feeling anxiety and uncertainty about the changes.

“The GPRA is lobbying the RACGP and Department of Health to ensure there will be appropriate leniencies and safeguards in the system to make sure registrars feel safe and comfortable to sit exams, when they feel it is right for them,” he said.

The RACGP told The Medical Republic that while the exam would be in a remote format, trainees could expect to be assessed for the same skills and competencies.

Dr Genevieve Yates, the RACGP’s general manager of educational services, said while the interim assessment wouldn’t feel like a traditional OSCE, it would still have similar cases and discussions.

“To prepare for this exam you will need to do the same preparation you would do for the OSCE. This will prepare you perfectly and adequately for this exam in November,” she said.

Dr Yates said while the College was apologetic for trainees who were expecting a traditional exam, the interim assessment would allow people to still fellow, despite the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to the cancellation of the May OSCE.

As for the mode of delivery of the November exam, the RACGP plans to release more information in the coming weeks.

Dr Yates said that any trainee who didn’t feel comfortable sitting the interim exam could defer without penalty and have their training time extended.

But trainees who decide to delay sitting the OSCE this year will potentially face the more uncertain future of an entirely new exam set to replace the OSCE next year.

The RACGP said the discussion to change the format of the OSCE had been ongoing 2017, with ongoing capacity issues at venues and the number of examiners required for the exam increasing.

“The main issue for us is a capacity issue, not quality, we as a college feel like we have outgrown the OSCE as far as being able to run it effectively,” Dr Yates said.

And while there were few details of what the 2021 exam would look like, Dr Yates said trainees could expect it to be face-to-face and still incorporate role plays and physical examinations.

However, GP trainees won’t be able to rehearse as much for the new exam, with one focus of the reformation being to make the assessment of clinical skills less regimented.

“We want to give people the opportunity to show the examiners how they would actually work in practice, rather than putting on an act for the OSCE,” Dr Yates said.

There is currently no confirmed starting date for the new examination, but the RACGP said it was at least 10 months away.

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