AAMC: What the end of a major medical licensing exam means

UC medical students weigh in on the end of part of a United States Medical Licensing Examination

A rite of passage for a generation of medical students is no more. A daylong, in-person Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) test — designed to assess aspiring doctors’ communication and physical exam techniques — was put on hold last March in response to the pandemic. Then, in a shift that shocked many observers, the exam’s sponsors — the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) — announced on Jan. 26 that they were no longer exploring how to revive it.

Zachary St. Clair

Zachary St. Clair

Replace In fact, a plan to relaunch a modified Step 2 Clinical Skills examination has been permanently shelved.  The end of this segment of the three-part United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) has elicited varied responses, from utter dismay to sheer delight. The new move was discussed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in a recent online article that included comments from two University of Cincinnati medical students, Robbie Daulton, and Zachary St. Clair.

Medical students were told that independent standardized assessments of medical knowledge and clinical skills remain important inputs for state medical licensure decisions. In the absence of Step 2 CS, elements of clinical reasoning and communication will continue to be assessed on other exams (Steps) in the USMLE sequence. 

Robert Daulton

Robert Daulton

Computer-based case simulations in Step 3 and communication content recently bolstered in Step 1 are examples of these efforts that will continue. While not a replacement for Step 2 CS, these formats continue to contribute positively, e.g., measuring critical knowledge of medical communication.  

"The FSMB is committed to supporting state medical boards in their principal mission to protect the public," said Humayun J. Chaudhry, DO, MACP, President and CEO of the FSMB. "As co-sponsors of the USMLE program, we will continue to seek innovative and sensible ways to assess medical licensing eligibility."

"NBME’s commitment to performance-based assessment and clinical skills has accelerated. Our newest area of focus around competency -based assessment, and our exploration of novel assessments, will allow us to work with the medical education and regulatory communities to develop assessments of these essential skills and the optimal way to integrate these assessments into the education and licensure space," said Peter J. Katsufrakis, MD, MBA, President and CEO, NBME. 

Read the AAMC article online.

Featured image of residents and medical students courtesy of Unsplash.