Developing an evidenced based undergraduate otolaryngology curriculum

  • Richard Steven

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Medicine


Developing curricula to ensure that they are comprehensive but not overwhelming is an on-going challenge in undergraduate medical education. This research aimed to explore what we teach and why with regards to undergraduate otolaryngology.

A longitudinal transformation approach was taken to this mixed methods study. This consisted of a comparison of undergraduate otolaryngology curricula in medical schools in the United Kingdom. Following this, a survey was devised, piloted and distributed nationally to a wide range of doctors. Four main groups were targeted including foundation year doctors, specialty trainees, general practitioners and consultants. Focus groups were then undertaken to explore results obtained from the preceding studies.

The curriculum comparison provides an overview of the main topics included in undergraduate otolaryngology curricula in the UK. The comparison highlighted the large degree of variability in undergraduate otolaryngology curricula from both a content and methods perspective.

Utilising results from the curriculum comparison, a national survey was devised. Results indicated that doctors felt that medical students should be able to perform the majority of otolaryngology examination skills. They should also be able to recognise, assess and initiate management for both common and life threatening acute conditions and be able to take an appropriate history and perform an appropriate examination for the majority of otolaryngology clinical conditions but manage only a select few. The survey indicated that the region in which a doctor works does not have a significant influence on their opinion, however, there was a large degree of variation in responses depending on the post of the respondent.

Focus groups showed that variability in undergraduate otolaryngology curricula is multifactorial. Factors include resource allocation and a lack of standardisation. The focus groups highlighted that the perceived importance of a topic was an influencing factor in questionnaire responses and that this was linked to the perceived seriousness of a clinical condition, the complexity of a case and whether it would be possible to manage the condition in general practice.

The results should aid curriculum development both in terms of curriculum content and how curricula are designed. A collaborative approach to curriculum development is recommended to reduce the risk of excluding important topics. The findings may be applicable to other specialties and have implications for curriculum development in general.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSean McAleer (Supervisor) & Gary Mires (Supervisor)

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