The use of the OSCE in postgraduate education


Rachel C. Arnold
School of Dentistry
St Chads Queensway
Birmingham B4 6NN, UK
Tel: +44 121 237 2761
Fax: +44 121 625 8815


Background:  The Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) is a method of assessing the clinical skills of undergraduates in medicine, dentistry and other health sciences and is employed increasingly in postgraduate education.

Aim:  To describe the application of the OSCE to the development of Lifelong Learning and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for General Dental Practitioners (GDPs).

Methods:  A postgraduate course was designed as an OSCE for GDPs. The OSCE comprised 12 stations covering different aspects of general dentistry. After an introductory seminar outlining the aim of the course, the participants spent 7 min at each station. Each question or task required 10 answers and was designed to highlight areas of weakness or interest and to stimulate further study of the presenting topic. Solutions and answers were provided at each station for self-assessment along with a list of locally presented courses related to that subject. Participants were invited to leave contact details and to make suggestions for future postgraduate courses. The final session consisted of a group discussion and participants were invited to complete an evaluation form to express opinions on the course.

Results:  The evaluation demonstrated that most candidates found participation in the OSCE stimulated their interest in CPD. The OSCE also highlighted areas of weakness in knowledge of certain clinical procedures. Group discussion confirmed that practitioners found the hands-on component valuable and that they were likely to participate in further OSCEs to enhance their CPD. Suggestions received during the discussion were used to modify the course.

Conclusions:  The OSCE course fulfilled its aim of assisting practitioners to organise their CPD. The reflective nature of the course was helpful in evaluating clinical knowledge and the unique multidisciplinary style fulfilled its objective in promoting thoughts regarding future study.