Student attendance is thought to be an important factor in the academic performance of medical students, in addition to having important regulatory, policy, and financial implications for medical educators. However, this relationship has not been well evaluated within clinical learning environments.
To evaluate the relationship between student attendance and academic performance in a medical student obstetrics/gynecology clinical rotation.
Design, Setting, and Participants
A prospective cohort study of student attendance at clinical and tutorial-based activities during a full academic year (September 2011 to June 2012) within a publicly funded university teaching hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Students were expected to attend 64 activities (26 clinical activities and 38 tutorial-based activities) but attendance was not mandatory. All 147 fourth-year medical students who completed an 8-week obstetrics/gynecology rotation were included.
Student attendance at clinical and tutorial-based activities, recorded using a paper-based logbook.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The overall examination score (out of a possible 200 points) was obtained using an 11-station objective structured clinical examination (40 points), an end-of-year written examination comprising 50 multiple-choice questions (40 points) and 6 short-answer questions (40 points), and an end-of-year long-case clinical/oral examination (80 points). Students were required to have an overall score of 100 points (50%) and a minimum of 40 points in the long-case clinical/oral examination (50%) to pass.
The mean attendance rate was 89% (range, 39%-100% [SD, 11%], n = 57/64 activities). Male students (84% attendance, P = .001) and students who failed an end-of-year examination previously (84% attendance, P = .04) had significantly lower rates. There was a positive correlation between attendance and overall examination score (r = 0.59 [95% CI, 0.44-0.70]; P < .001). Both clinical attendance (r = 0.50 [95% CI, 0.32-0.64]; P < .001) and tutorial-based attendance (r = 0.57 [95% CI, 0.40-0.70]; P < .001) were positively correlated with overall examination score. The associations persisted after controlling for confounding factors of student sex, age, country of origin, previous failure in an end-of-year examination, and the timing of the rotation during the academic year. Distinction grades (overall score of ≥60%) were present only among students with attendance rates of 80% or higher. The odds of a distinction grade increased with each 10% increase in attendance (adjusted odds ratio, 5.52; 95% CI, 2.17-14.00). The majority of failure grades (6/10 students; 60%) occurred in students with attendance rates lower than 80%. The adjusted odds ratio for failure with attendance rates of 80% or higher was 0.11 (95% CI, 0.02-0.72).
Conclusions and Relevance
Among fourth-year medical students completing an 8-week obstetrics/gynecology clinical rotation, attendance at clinical and tutorial-based activities was positively correlated with overall examination scores. Further research is needed to understand whether the relationship is causal, and whether improving attendance rates can improve academic performance.