• assessment;
  • emergency medicine;
  • intern;
  • medical education



To determine the frequency and nature of intern underperformance as documented on in-training assessment forms.


A retrospective review of intern assessment forms from a 2 year period (2009–2010) was conducted at a tertiary referral hospital in Brisbane, Queensland. The frequency of interns assessed as ‘requiring substantial assistance’ and/or ‘requires further development’ on mid- or end-of-term assessment forms was determined. Forms were analysed by the clinical rotation, time of year and domain(s) of clinical practice in which underperformance was documented.


During 2009 and 2010 the overall documented incidence of intern underperformance was 2.4% (95% CI 1.5–3.9%). Clinical rotation in emergency medicine detected significantly more underperformance compared with other rotations (P < 0.01). Interns predominantly had difficulty with ‘clinical judgment and decision-making skills’, ‘time management skills’ and ‘teamwork and colleagues’ (62.5%, 55% and 32.5% of underperforming assessments, respectively). Time of the year did not affect frequency of underperformance. A proportion of 13.4% (95% CI 9.2–19.0%) of interns working at the institution over the study period received at least one assessment in which underperformance was documented. Seventy-six per cent of those interns who had underperformance identified by mid-term assessment successfully completed the term following remediation.


The prevalence of underperformance among interns is low, although higher than previously suggested. Emergency medicine detects relatively more interns in difficulty than other rotations.