Using the Delphi Method to Classify Medical Specialties.
Keywords: medical specialty choice, medical student career development, career specialty choice, person-oriented and technique-oriented medical specialties, medical career advising
Researchers investigating medical specialty choice, as well as advisors and career counselors working with medical students on specialty decision making, rely on up-to-date models to guide their work. One model of medical specialty classification that has immense applicability for research, and for career advising and counseling, is the person-oriented versus technique-oriented taxonomy. This approach to conceptualizing medical specialties was first suggested in the late 1960s (Wasserman, Yufit, & Pollock, 1969; Yufit, Pollock, & Wasserman, 1969), reappeared in the early 1990s (Zeldow, Devens, & Daugherty, 1990), and has been used in more recent studies (Borges & Gibson, 2005; Manuel, Borges, & Jones, 2009; Pedersen, Bak, Dissing, & Petersson, 2011; Taber, Hartung, & Borges, 2011).
Person-oriented specialties refer to specialties that have an orientation toward people, whereas technique-oriented specialties deal more with techniques and instruments (Yufit et al., 1969). Person-oriented specialties are described by Yufit and colleagues (1969) as family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics/ gynecology, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and psychiatry. Specialties categorized as technique-oriented include surgery, anesthesiology, dermatology, emergency medicine, otolaryngology, pathology, and radiology. Researchers and physicians who reviewed and critiqued our work have criticized the model, questioning how particular specialties are categorized. Coupled with die model's conceptualization dating back to the 1960s, we aim to verify its use based on how medical specialties are practiced and viewed today.
We used the Delphi method to verify the model conceptualized by Yufit and colleagues (1969) for classifying specialties as either person-oriented or technique-oriented. The Delphi method, used to obtain convergence of opinion on a specific topic (Yousuf, 2007), is a widely recognized survey method in medical education and other disciplines. The method relies on a panel of experts to reach consensus about a topic or problem. Several rounds of discussion are conducted before experts indicate their final judgment or view.
Participants and Procedure
All Delphi panelists in the present study were members of the Association of American Medical Colleges Careers in Medicine (CiM) Advisory Committee with expertise in specialty classification. Panelists were physicians (three men, two women) representing person-oriented (e.g., psychiatry, pediatrics) and technique-oriented specialties (e.g., emergency medicine, pathology) with mid--to senior-level experience in student affairs. All were practicing clinicians with over 10 years in academic medicine. Panelists convened during a 2013 CiM professional development conference and assisted with verifying the categorization of specialties by participating in three rounds of the Delphi method as seen in Tables 1 and 2. The group's task was to determine the final grouping of person-oriented versus technique-oriented specialties using an iterative process. The questionnaire completed by participants comprised the original grouping of specialties by Yufit and colleagues (1969) of person-oriented (i.e., family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and psychiatry) and technique-oriented specialties (i.e., surgery, anesthesiology, dermatology, emergency medicine, otolaryngology, pathology, and radiology). Participants used a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree) to indicate their agreement with the respective specialties listed under the headings of person-oriented specialties and technique-oriented specialties.
At the end of three rounds of the Delphi method, using the median as the measure of central tendency, a 100% consensus was reached regarding the grouping of specialties composing person-oriented versus technique-oriented specialties, as seen in Tables 1 and 2. The grouping of specialties in these areas matched exactly with the model from the 1960s.
The current study highlights that physicians who serve on national committees regarding specialty choice, and who also advise and work closely with medical students on choosing a specialty, determined the classification model from the 1960s as suitable for contemporary use. Practice implications for the current study include the continued use of the taxonomy for advising and counseling students about specialty choice. Medical students often enter medical school with limited knowledge about die career options and specialties open to them, and they may not have had enough experience to choose from the wide variety of specialties that exist. Classifying specialties along the person-oriented and technique-oriented framework can assist students in identifying a more manageable subset of specialties to more fully explore. Specifically, for students who are uncertain or undecided about choosing a particular specialty, the taxonomy can be useful to assist them in broadly differentiating medical specialties. Students can use the taxonomy to align themselves with one group of specialties over another (i.e., person-oriented or technique-oriented) for the sake of simplicity and clarity as they work through the decision-making process. Often, students are pressured by friends, family, faculty, and administrators to have identified a choice of specialty early on in medical school, and this alignment may help them feel less overwhelmed.
A growing body of research has explored factors associated with the person-oriented versus technique-oriented medical specialty model. Researchers have explored personality differences in medical students and physicians using the person-oriented versus technique-oriented framework. These studies, which used a wide variety of measures including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Sliwa & Shade-Zeldow, 1994), the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Zeldow et al., 1990), and the Personality Research Form (Borges & Gibson, 2005), support personality differences within the taxonomy. As for other medical student characteristics, qualities, and skills, social-dominance orientation has been linked to interest in entering a technique-oriented specialty (Lepiece, Reynaert, van Meerbeeck, & Dory, 2016).
Differences in communication skills exist for medical students pursuing person-oriented versus technique-oriented specialties (Tsao, Simpson, & Treat, 2015). Students entering technique-oriented specialties received higher ratings on communication skills during their technique-oriented clerkships compared with their person-oriented clerkships. Empathy, however, tends to be higher among medical students interested in person-oriented specialties (Chen, Lew, Hershman, & Orlander, 2007). Regarding gender, fewer male medical students compared with female medical students preferred person-oriented specialties (Pedersen et al., 2011). The increasing volume of literature investigating person-oriented versus technique-oriented medical specialties provides justification for verifying applicability of the model for current research.
Although panelists represented both person-oriented and technique-oriented specialties, not all specialties within those areas were represented. It is possible that, had all specialties been represented on the panel, their opinions and views may have achieved a different consensus on how specialties within the taxonomy should be classified. Further investigations could replicate the current study with panelists who represent all specialties within the taxonomy. Future studies might also include further classification of additional specialties to cover at least the core medical specialties that students consider for initial entry into specialty training. This could then be expanded, if possible, to identifying its capacity to describe and define subspecialty areas of medicine. Another area of research could involve examining a further differentiation of characteristics within each specialty group. As students continue to narrow their options, what other variables may be important in helping them choose their specialty? Can the taxonomy be used as a higher level organizer that can be incorporated into existing assessment resources available to support specialty choice, such as die Medical Specialty Preference Inventory, available in the Association of American Medical Colleges CiM program (www.aamc.org/cim)? Despite its limitation, our study provides an updated validation of the person-oriented versus technique-oriented taxonomy of medical specialties. It also supports the continued use of the model in contemporary research on medical specialty choice and in medical specialty career advising.
Nicole J. Borges, University of Mississippi Medical Center; George V. Richard, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nicole J. Borges, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39216-4505 (e-mail: email@example.com).
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TABLE 1 Individual Participant Scores and Median Scores for Person-Oriented Specialties Family Internal Medicine Medicine Participant 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 5 5 5 5 5 5 2 5 5 5 3 4 4 3 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 Median score (a) 5 5 5 4 4 4 Obstetrics/ Pediatrics Gynecology Participant 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 2 2 5 4 4 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 5 4 4 4 3 3 3 4 4 4 5 2 3 3 4 4 4 Median score (a) 3 3 3 4 4 4 Physical Medicine and Psychiatry Rehabilitation Participant 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 3 3 3 5 5 5 2 4 4 4 5 5 5 3 4 4 4 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 3 3 3 5 5 5 Median score (a) 4 4 4 5 5 5 Note. Numbers under each specialty indicate Delphi round. Scores indicate participant's level of agreement with the classification of each specialty as person-oriented on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). (a) Median scores calculated by specialty for each of the person-oriented specialties after Rounds 1, 2, and 3 of the Delphi method. TABLE 2 Individual Participant Scores and Median Scores for Technique-Oriented Specialties Surgery Anesthesiology Participant 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 5 5 5 5 5 5 2 4 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 Median score (a) 5 5 5 5 5 5 Emergency Dermatology Medicine Participant 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 4 4 4 3 4 4 2 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 4 4 3 4 4 5 4 4 4 4 4 4 Median score (a) 4 4 4 4 4 4 Otolaryngology Pathology Radiology Participant 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 2 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 Median score (a) 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 Note. Numbers under each specialty indicate Delphi round. Scores indicate participant's level of agreement with the classification of each specialty as technique-oriented on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). (a) Median scores calculated by specialty for each of the technique-oriented specialties after Rounds 1, 2, and 3 of Delphi method.
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|Author:||Borges, Nicole J.; Richard, George V.|
|Publication:||Career Development Quarterly|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2018|
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