Cureus. 2020 Aug 3;12(8):e9537. doi: 10.7759/cureus.9537.
Background Capstone, or bootcamp, courses have been shown to increase the knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy of students prior to starting intern year and have been recommended by the Alliance for Clinical Education (ACE) to be incorporated into the fourth-year medical school curricula. However, a paucity of research exists regarding the exploration of the student perspective on critical curricular content and teaching strategies in a capstone course. Self-efficacy, one's subjective task-specific judgment of capability, has served in the literature as a framework for capstone outcomes and is derived from four sources of experiences: practice, observation of others, feedback, and one's emotional reaction to difficult situations. Utilizing this framework, we aimed to evaluate the impact of our capstone curriculum on students' self-efficacy and to identify critical curricular content and teaching strategies that affected students' self-efficacy and their transition into residency. Methods We designed a mixed methods study of our institution's capstone course in May 2019. Students were invited to participate in the retrospective pre- and post- self-efficacy survey and focus group immediately after the capstone and in semi-structured interviews four months after they began the intern year. Themes were identified via qualitative analysis using inductive coding to allow participants' voices to guide code development and deductive analysis using codes derived from the self-efficacy framework. Results Nine enrolled students participated in the study (surveys n=8, focus group n=7, follow-up interview n=6). Students reported the capstone was a very valuable educational experience (median 4.5 [interquartile range, or IQR 4-5]), increased their preparedness for intern year (median 5 [IQR 4.25-5]) and increased self-efficacy in multiple domains. Qualitative analysis revealed the critical curricular elements that most impacted students' self-efficacy were practical and communication skills to which students previously had limited exposure, in particular managing acute clinical needs, overnight cross-cover pages, inpatient pharmacology, daily intern communication (handoffs, consults, consenting), and end-of-life communication (goals of care, code status, pronouncing death). While all four sources contributed to self-efficacy, students reported that instructor and peer feedback were fundamental to providing context and substance to their performance. Students preferred practice-based learning via high-fidelity simulation and small groups for familiar tasks (daily intern communication, overnight pages, pharmacology) and observation of peers for new tasks (end-of-life communication and acute clinical deterioration). Conclusions This is the first study describing students' perspectives on critical curricular content and teaching strategies for a capstone course derived from qualitative analysis. Practical and communication skills with previously limited clerkship exposure and task-specific learning strategies increased the students' self-efficacy. Constructive feedback provided an important source of self-efficacy for all tasks, augmenting the benefits of practice and observation. This data provides preliminary groundwork for future research as multi-institutional studies are necessary to better understand students' needs around the curriculum to address residency transition.