University of Virginia School of Medicine
Competencies Required of the
Contemporary Physician*

Competency goals 1-3 describe abilities that students may already possess to some extent before beginning their medical education experience. The preclerkship years of medical education should provide them with opportunities to further develop and apply these competencies within the context of the clinical care of the patient.

 1. The ability to understand the nature of, and demonstrate professional and ethical behavior in, the act of medical care. This includes respect, responsibility and accountability, excellence and scholarship, honor and integrity, altruism, leadership, cultural competency, caring and compassion, and confidentiality. 
 2. The ability to engage and communicate with a patient, develop a student-patient relationship, and communicate with others in the professional setting, using interpersonal skills to build relationships for the purpose of information gathering, guidance, education, support and collaboration. 
 3. The ability to apply scientific knowledge and method to clinical problem solving.  
Competency goals 4-8 represent specific individual clinical skills activities that are performed in any medical encounter.

4. The ability to take a clinical history, both focused and comprehensive.
5. The ability to perform a mental and physical examination.
6. The ability to select, justify and interpret selected clinical tests and imaging.
 7. The ability to understand and perform a variety of basic clinical procedures.
 8. The ability to record, present, research, critique and manage clinical information.

Competency goals 9-11 reflect the three major tasks of individual patient care that involve the integration of competency goals 1-8: identifying and prioritizing clinical problems, understanding, selecting and implementing clinical interventions, and predicting the course of illness and anticipating future patient healthcare outcomes. These competency goals reflect the three major reasons why patients seek physician care.

  9. The ability to diagnose and explain clinical problems in terms of pathogenesis, to develop basic differential diagnosis, and to learn and demonstrate clinical reasoning and problem identification.
10. The ability to understand and select clinical interventions in the natural history of disease, including basic preventive, curative and palliative strategies.
11. The ability to understand and to formulate a prognosis about the future events of an individual's health and illness based upon an understanding of the patient, the natural history of disease, and upon known intervention alternatives.

The preceding competency goals are the core elements of generic clinical method. The final competency goal reflects the fact that in providing patient care, the physician must also consider the practical context within which medical care is delivered from the perspective of both the individual patient and the environment in which they live.

 12. The ability to provide clinical care within the practical context of a patient's age, gender, personal preferences, family, health literacy, culture, religious perspective, and their economic circumstances.  This competency goal also includes consideration of relevant ethical, moral and legal perspectives including patient advocacy and public health concerns, and as well as the resources and limitations of the healthcare system. 

*Adapted from findings of the 1998 University of Virginia School of Medicine Task Force on Medical School Objectives.


Amended 2/25/08