INTRODUCTION: Objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) have proven to be a powerful tool. They possess more than a 30-year track record in assessing the competency of medical students, residents, and fellows. Objective structured clinical examinations have been used successfully in a variety of medical specialties, including surgery. They have recently found their way into the subspecialty of plastic surgery. METHODS: This article uses a systematic review of the available literature on OSCEs and their recent use in plastic surgery. It incorporates survey results assessing program directorsʼ views on the use of OSCEs. RESULTS: Approximately 40% of programs surveyed use OSCEs to assess the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education core competencies. We found that 40% use OSCEs to evaluate specific plastic surgery milestones. Objective structured clinical examinations are usually performed annually. They cost anywhere between $100 and more than $1000 per resident. Four milestones giving residents the most difficulties on OSCEs were congenital anomalies, noncancer breast surgery, breast reconstruction, and practice-based learning and improvement. It was determined that challenges with milestones were due to lack of adequate general knowledge and surgical ward patient care, as well as deficits in professionalism and system-based problems. Programs were able to remediate weakness found by OSCEs using a variety of methods. CONCLUSIONS: Objective structured clinical examinations offer a unique tool to objectively assess the proficiency of residents in key areas of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education core competencies. In addition, they can be used to assess the specific milestones that plastic surgery residents must meet. This allows programs to identify and improve identified areas of weakness.
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