Comparing international and South African work-based assessment of medical interns’ practice

  • K L Naidoo
  • J van Wyk
  • M Adhikari


Background. Resource constraints and a high disease burden impact on the work-based assessment (WBA) of medical interns in South Africa (SA).
Objectives. To review the use of workplace-based assessment frameworks in intern practice in SA and to compare these with international practices.
Methods. A systematic review using a thematic analysis was performed to analyse 97 articles selected from an initial scoping of 360 sources of evidence on WBA in internship between 2000 and 2017. This process informed a synthesis of descriptive and analytic themes related to competency-based assessment practices relevant to internship in SA.
Results. There was an overall dearth of studies on assessment of medical interns in lower-middle-income countries (LMICs). The context in which the assessment of interns in SA occurs has many challenges related to resources, workload and supervision. SA intern assessment is largely focused on core clinical competency, and this occurs without using competency-based frameworks. This focus was reflected in the finding that most studies in SA have dealt with the assessment of core procedural skills related to acute clinical care, while the assessment of non-clinical competencies and non-procedural skills was poorly addressed. Self-assessment by interns was the predominant strategy used in the SA context. The review revealed limitations in the use of multiple assessment strategies and direct observation in the local context, in contrast to practices in most high-income countries.
Conclusions. A shift in focus to assess both procedural and non-procedural skills within a competency-based framework is advocated for SA internship, together with the use of multiple assessment tools and strategies that rely on direct observation of performance.


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