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Physical Examination Skills Among Chief Residents in Psychiatry: Practices, Attitudes, and Self-Perceived Knowledge



The authors investigated the attitudes, self-perceived competence, and the need for a dedicated curriculum on physical examination skills among chief residents in psychiatry.


A voluntary 28-item web-based questionnaire was distributed to psychiatry chief residents in the USA between January 2019 and February 2019.


Of 181 chief residents, 79 (response rate, 44%) completed the online survey. The majority of chief residents want to improve their physical exam skills (64%) and believe that there should be a targeted curriculum aimed at incorporating these skills into everyday psychiatric practice (63%). However, most (57%) chief residents reported that they only conduct physical exams on a few selected patients (< 25% of the time) and almost half (48%) last used a stethoscope a year ago, if not longer. Self-perceived competence and comfort level with neurology-related exam findings was especially low: only 35% could identify discrepant neurological findings and 33% elicit Hoover’s sign of leg paresis. A significant majority (86%) believed that performing a physical exam would not interfere with the therapeutic relationship.


Although chief residents in psychiatry believe that developing competence in physical examinations is important to their education, the current educational landscape does not support the development of these skills. Future educational strategies should focus on addressing this need.

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The authors would like to thank the University of Chicago MERITS (Medical Education, Research, Innovation, Teaching and Scholarship) program for its support and guidance.

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Correspondence to Michel Medina.

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This study was approved for exempt status by the IRB of the University of Chicago (IRB 18-0744).


On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Medina, M., Garza, D.M. & Cooper, J.J. Physical Examination Skills Among Chief Residents in Psychiatry: Practices, Attitudes, and Self-Perceived Knowledge. Acad Psychiatry 44, 68–72 (2020).

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  • Physical examination
  • Psychiatry
  • Residency
  • Medical education
  • Clinical skills
  • Bedside exam