As osteopathic medical schools begin to resume educational activities, including clinical rotations, the Clinical Skills Testing Department at the NBOME is also preparing for the resumption of the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE, currently slated for September 1.
With a keen sensitivity to the pressures and challenges of testing during these uncertain times, we are taking every precaution to ensure a safe and comfortable testing experience for candidates, as well as for our staff and standardized patients.
We have taken a methodical approach to analyzing the exam administration process, looking critically at each onsite step of the exam experience, from the moment a candidate enters the building until they depart. Our commitment to the health and wellness of our candidates guides us as we identify opportunities for improvement, and as we adjust our processes and procedures to address any safety gaps that may exist - all while maintaining the validity and reliability of the clinical skills exam.
We will be sharing our comprehensive safety measures more fully in the next few weeks, as well as guidelines for candidates regarding the exam encounters with standardized patients. In the meantime the following items serve as a starting point:
- Candidate and Staff health screening. Exam staff will assess candidates during the check-in process and conduct thermal screenings of all candidates.
- Social distancing. These protocols will be rigorously enforced throughout the NCCST. However, patient encounters will still require direct contact / interaction.
- Staggered exam start times. On days with more than 1 exam scheduled we will stagger times to start about an hour apart. Start times will be communicated via email received in the weeks leading up to their exam.
- Larger capacity rooms. Large rooms have been reserved for registration and breaks to further support social distancing protocols.
- Hand sanitizer. This will be available in all common areas throughout the NCCST, in all examination rooms, and at all SOAP note terminals.
- Clear face masks issued to all candidates and standardized patients. These masks provide protection from spreading respiratory droplets while allowing viewing of the full face. Please note, these are not face shields, but actual face masks that fully cover the nose and mouth of the wearer.
- Enhanced cleaning procedures. Hospital-grade disinfectant will be used to periodically wipe down high-touch surfaces both in exam rooms and at SOAP note terminals, plus daily deep-cleaning before each testing session.
Risk Management. Scenario Planning. Pilot Testing. Independent Review.
Incredible thanks go out to the students, residents and attending physicians who joined us on Saturday June 13 as part of our first Level 2-PE pilot exam with COVID-19 protocols in place. The intent of the pilot was to pressure-test the various physical distancing and safety modifications put in place and to gain further insight on what else needs to be done to prepare for a safe and successful exam re-start.
We were also joined on-site by a local board-certified infectious disease specialist with training in hospital epidemiology and investigating outbreaks. She monitored the pilot exam from candidate and staff wellness screening, to physical distancing implementation, to enhanced cleaning protocols. She provided valuable feedback on our processes and expressed confidence in the steps we have taken to make the exam a safe experience. The pilot provided us clearer insight on the integrity of our enhanced health and safety policies and procedures and reassured us that we are on the right track as we prepare to relaunch the exam.
As a follow-up to the pilot, NBOME will be hosting a team of public health officials from Johns Hopkins University on July 11. This group will provide further review of the exam and our approach to enhanced safety.
While the input and recommendations received from subject matter experts in the public health sector will directly guide our path forward, we also feel it is important to engage the student community to ensure they feel safe in this environment. As such, we have invited a fourth-year DO student leader who has already completed the clinical skills exam to visit our NCCST, review the safety enhancements we are putting in place, and provide their thoughts as it relates to the comfort level of incoming candidates.
Once this 360-degree analysis is complete, we will incorporate our learnings into a safety report and video that will be available on our website in mid-July.
Our re-start plan will continue to evolve as we monitor the rapidly growing medical knowledge surrounding the virus and the implications of public health and safety guidelines in the Chicago and Philadelphia regions where our NCCSTs are located, as well as other key regions. While we are optimistic about our plans to safely resume testing on September 1, and are looking forward to again engaging with candidates, please be assured that we do not plan to resume testing until we have made the testing environment as safe as possible, given the unique circumstances. We also encourage students to continually evaluate their own personal circumstances regarding location and personal situations. We currently have exam openings through June 2021 for those who would feel more comfortable coming at a later time.
We remain dedicated to the importance of assessing the fundamental clinical skills of DO candidates and support the safe return of clinical learning opportunities as we all move forward during these uncertain times, together.