Assessing Medical Student Basic Otolaryngology Knowledge: A Multi-Institutional Study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Ear, Nose and Throat Journal








comfort; competency; cross-sectional survey; curriculum; knowledge; medical student otolaryngology/knowledge/skills/competency; medical student questionnaire; multi-institutional validated study; otolaryngology; teaching; training; undergraduate medical education


© The Author(s) 2019. The prevalence of otolaryngologic complaints in general practice is disproportionate to the extent of otolaryngology teaching in undergraduate medical education. This is the first multi-institutional validated study used to assess basic otolaryngology knowledge among medical students in order to understand their abilities to recognize and manage these cases. A 9-question, psychometrically validated, multiple-choice quiz was distributed in June 2017 to medical students of 9 US allopathic institutions as an assessment of basic otolaryngology knowledge. A total of 547 medical student responses were used to assess basic otolaryngology knowledge, comfort levels, amount of exposure to otolaryngology, and number of times the head and neck physical examination was taught formally. Comfort in managing otolaryngologic conditions correlated positively with knowledge (P <.001, R 2 = 0.266), in addition to otolaryngology exposure correlating positively with knowledge (P <.001, R 2 = 0.284). Students intending to enter otolaryngology had higher scores (P =.002), higher comfort levels in managing otolaryngologic cases (P <.001), and higher comfort levels performing the head and neck examination (χ 2 = 21.324, P <.001), compared with students intending to enter primary care or another surgical specialty. Clinical students in third and fourth years entering any surgical specialty (including otolaryngology), more often than students entering primary care (P =.007), recognized the obturator as the instrument used to guide the insertion of the tracheotomy tube. Additionally, the number of times the head and neck examination was taught correlated positively with comfort in performing the examination (r s = 0.095, P =.022). Our findings support the need for increased otolaryngologic education and training among all medical students, not only those entering otolaryngology.

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