The National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME®) is committed, along with like-minded organizations, to identifying potential sources of burnout for physicians in training and contributing to solutions. In February, the NBME convened the inaugural Re-examining Exams: NBME Effort on Wellness (RENEW) task force. The organization’s goal in this initiative is to address the challenge of physician wellness and to acknowledge the stress caused by working in the health professions that begins during the educational and training processes.
The RENEW Task Force was created to:
- Understand the role high-stakes exams, such as the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®), as well as secondary uses of those exams, play in affecting medical student and physician wellness.
- Develop and execute a research agenda that will lead to actionable interventions to promote wellness and mitigate burnout.
- Support actionable interventions to promote wellness amongst learners and trainees in the context of assessment.
Staff and volunteers were in agreement that the inaugural meeting of the task force exceeded expectations. “This project has the potential to advance individuals, schools, and the NBME,” said Liselotte N. Dyrbye, MD, Mayo Clinic.
After a welcome and intention setting, task force members received education on the USMLE program, examples of examinee perspectives of stress and anxiety as associated with USMLE in their own words, and an overview of key measurement principles. As a large group, task force members brainstormed possible research ideas from the perspective of individuals, institutions, and the public.
In small groups, task force members collaborated on identifying nine research ideas. A consensus process determined the most viable ideas as:
- Investigate the relationship between wellbeing/stress as measured by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Year 2 Questionnaire and subsequent performance on educational/licensure assessments
- Examine the impact of examinee study behaviors on wellbeing/stress and assessment performance
- Examine the impact of the learning environment on examinee wellbeing/stress and assessment performance
- Explore the characteristics of examinee stressors and the ways in which they navigate them as they prepare for certain assessments
The research agenda that was drafted will require deep collaboration with organizations such as AAMC and Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). NBME is committed to taking an organizing role in further refining the proposed research agenda. Representatives of various stakeholder groups plan to collaborate with NBME on sharing of data and allocation of resources and time for next steps.
“This experience was tremendous,” said Patricia Vanston, EdD, of University of the Sciences, regarding her time at the RENEW Task Force meeting. “It was well-organized and we got a lot accomplished. Kudos to the organization.”