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Identifying essential competencies for medical students

Xiangyun Du (College of Education, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar)
Salah Eldin Kassab (College of Medicine, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar)
Ayad M. Al-Moslih (College of Medicine, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar)
Marwan Farouk Abu-Hijleh (College of Medicine, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar)
Hossam Hamdy (Gulf Medical University, Ajman, United Arab Emirates)
Farhan Sachal Cyprian (College of Medicine, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 28 January 2019

Issue publication date: 18 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to identify essential profession-related competencies, clinical knowledge and skills that medical students should develop in the early stages of their education for future professional practice.


A literature review and workshop resulted in a list of 46 crucial profession-related competencies. The first round of the modified Delphi survey (feedback questionnaire) involved experts who identified 26 items (via a Likert scale). The second round of the modified Delphi survey by faculty members highlighted ten items. Statistical analysis yielded four domains with items clustered as follows: interpersonal competencies (communication and collaboration), cognitive skills (problem solving, critical thinking and reflectivity), work-related skills (planning and time management) and professionalism (integrity, sense of responsibility, respect and empathy).


In conclusion, the results of this study provide insights and implications surrounding the competencies that are essential for assessment and facilitation in the early stages of a medical curriculum. The study also predicts the challenges of facilitating and assessing these competencies, as pointed out in recent literature. In general, outcomes of the study suggest that instead of categorizing the competencies, it is more meaningful to take a holistic and integrated approach in order to conceptualize, facilitate and assess these competencies in context of the complexities of real-life situations.


Ten items were identified as essential profession-related competencies that should be incorporated during the early stages of medical education. Six out of the ten items were agreed upon by all participants of the study: collaboration, communication, problem solving, integrity, responsibility and respect. This list aligns with the existing literature and graduate attributes internationally. Items related to planning and time management, critical thinking and reflectivity were regarded as specifically lacking and important areas of improvement for Arabic students. Divergence on items of empathy and medical ethics were observed among international and local panels, with the main concern, raised by medical faculty, being how to facilitate and assess these items. The competencies identified mandate reforms in the medical school curricula in an attempt to implement essential skills early in medical student’s career.



The authors acknowledge the contributions of the international panelists and the tutors from the College of Medicine at Qatar University who participated in this study. This research was supported and funded by the College of Medicine, Qatar University.


Du, X., Kassab, S.E., Al-Moslih, A.M., Abu-Hijleh, M.F., Hamdy, H. and Cyprian, F.S. (2019), "Identifying essential competencies for medical students", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 352-366.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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