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Competency Evaluations within ACVS Training

January 10, 2022

Competency is a word frequently spoken in association with medical education over the last 10 years. I would like to take this opportunity to inform our College of some of the steps ACVS leadership has already taken to assess and improve competency within our residency programs, and the steps we hope to pursue over the next few years. Yet, before detailing some specifics it is important to point out that in striving for a valid assessment of competency, competency should not be confused with conformity. The diversity of experiences across ACVS training programs brings challenges, but also brings strength to the College, and it does not benefit the college for all programs to be exactly the same.

There are many facets to a competent surgeon, and ACVS is employing a multifaceted approach to begin to formulate competency assessments. One of the first tasks was to ask, “Are programs training residents in the surgeries that they should be able to perform?” An ad hoc committee began by analyzing ACVS curriculums (required categories of surgical cases) relative to prior job analyses and actual numbers/proportions of surgeries that are performed by ACVS Diplomates. The group found that the resident curriculums do closely mirror the surgeries that surgeons should perform with few exceptions, and ACVS periodically changes the curriculums accordingly. As a follow up to that initial step, in 2020 the College conducted an Essential Procedures Survey of all Diplomates asking whether they agreed, disagreed, or had no opinion on whether a new Diplomate “should be able to perform that procedure successfully without assistance.” The results of that survey can be found in the Diplomates only section of the ACVS website. You will find that the overwhelming majority of the surgeries listed were considered those that a new Diplomate should perform without assistance.  

In 2018, ACVS launched the first annual Residency Completion Survey. This confidential survey has been implemented to determine if the resident’s perspective of the training coincides with the reported aspects from the program. The survey allows ACVS to evaluate trends across programs that may inhibit or enhance competency (e.g., the extent of Diplomate interaction with a resident before, during, and after surgical cases during the different years of their training). To provide a tool to augment individual resident competency assessments, ACVS recently provided an optional Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills (OSATS) form to all residents and resident advisors that can be used to chart a resident’s progress over the course of their program as well as identify areas for improvement for the individual and/or within the program. Finally, a subcommittee of Residency Program Compliance Committee and Resident Credentialing Committee members are currently engaging in discussions to determine different residency program parameters that can be evaluated to assist in program competency.

More detailed and specific competency assessments will likely come. They will allow our College to continue to be a strong force in veterinary surgical training and education. A meeting to formulate the next five-year strategic plan for ACVS is coming this spring. Education and competency will be topics that will be of high priority. In the meantime, if you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to email me.

Eric J. Parente, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons
ACVS Director of Certification
ejp@vet.upenn.edu