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Technical Standards

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Doctor of Medicine Degree
Technical Standards

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Admissions Committee affirms that all candidates for the MD degree must possess the intellectual, physical and emotional capabilities necessary to undertake the required curriculum in a reasonably independent manner, without having to rely on intermediaries, and that all students must be able to achieve the levels of competence required by the faculty to complete medical school and enter residency and clinical practice. Candidates for the MD degree must have abilities and skills in the following areas: observational skills; communication skills; motor skills; intellectual, conceptual, integrative, and quantitative skills; and behavioral and social skills. Technological compensation can be made for some limitations in certain of these areas, but candidates must be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner. The use of a trained intermediary is not allowable as this shifts the reliance of candidates’ judgment from their own observation and prioritization to that of another.

Candidates must have sufficient sensory and motor function to independently gather information from patients by physical examination and observation. All candidates should be expected to perform basic laboratory tests (blood and urine analysis, etc.), execute diagnostic procedures (lumbar puncture, venipuncture, etc.), and interpret ancillary diagnostic data (EKG’s and X-rays). Candidates should be able to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients. Examples of emergency treatment reasonably required of physicians are cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the administration of intravenous medication, the application of pressure to stop bleeding, the opening of obstructed airways, the suturing of simple wounds and the performance of simple obstetrical maneuvers. Such tasks and actions require equilibrium, the coordination of gross and fine muscular movements, and functional use of the senses.

These guidelines were formally adopted by the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Undergraduate Medical Education Executive Committee and are reviewed annually.

Implementation of Technical Standards in the Admissions Process All applicants for admission to the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine will be evaluated according to the same standards and criteria outlined in the Technical Standards. Although these standards serve to delineate the necessary physical and mental abilities of all candidates, they are not intended to deter any candidate for whom reasonable accommodation will allow the fulfillment of the complete curriculum.

Implementation of Technical Standards during Degree Candidacy Should a candidate have or develop a condition that would place patients, the candidate, or others at risk or that may affect his/her need for accommodation, an evaluation with an appropriate medical provider followed by assessment through the Vanderbilt University Student Access Services Office would be needed to provide recommended accommodations to the School of Medicine. The Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education (ADUME) and the Assistant Dean for Medical Student Assessment (and, if needed, the Senior Associate Dean for Health Sciences Education) would review the student assessment and requested accommodations carefully. A complete and careful reconsideration of all the skills, attitudes, and attributes of each candidate will be performed. This includes an assessment of his/her willingness, desire and ability to complete the medical curriculum and fulfill all requirements for medical licensure, and will be informed by the knowledge that students with varied types of disabilities have the ability to become successful medical professionals.

Technical Standards

Observational Skills
Candidates must assimilate essential information as presented through demonstrations and experiences in the basic sciences. In addition, candidates must be able to:

  • Observe a patient accurately and acquire relevant health and medical information, including written documents, images from the medical literature, slides and/or video.
  • Interpret x-ray and other graphic images, and digital or analog representations of physiologic data (e.g. EKGs).

The required observation and information acquisition and analysis necessitate the functional use of visual, auditory and somatic sensation. In any case where a candidate’s ability to observe or acquire information through these sensory modalities is compromised, the candidate must demonstrate alternative means and/or abilities to acquire essential observational information.

Communication Skills
Candidates must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language such that they can communicate effectively in oral and written form with all members of the health care team. Candidates must be able to communicate with patients in order to elicit information. They must have the capacity for comfortable verbal and non-verbal communication and interpersonal skills, to enable effective caregiving of patients and collaboration within a multidisciplinary team. In any case where a candidate’s ability to communicate is compromised, the candidate must demonstrate alternative means and/or abilities to communicate with patients and teams.

Motor Skills
It is required that candidates possess the motor skills necessary to complete and interpret the physical findings of patients. Such actions may require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, and functional use of the senses of touch. In any case where a candidate’s ability to complete and interpret physical findings because of motor skills is compromised, the candidate must demonstrate alternative means and/or abilities to retrieve these physical findings.

Intellectual-Conceptual Skills
Candidates must exhibit the requisite intellectual and conceptual skills to effectively interpret, assimilate and understand the complex information required to function within our medical school curriculum. Effective participation in learning modalities, such as individual, small group, and lecture formats, in both the classroom and the clinical setting, will be required. Candidates must be able to effectively learn, participate, collaborate and contribute as a part of a team. They will need to synthesize information effectively both in person and via remote technology. Candidates must be able to interpret causal connections, and make accurate, fact-based conclusions based on available data and information. They must be able to formulate a hypothesis, investigate the potential answers and outcomes and formulate appropriate and accurate conclusions.

Cognitive Skills
Candidates must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, integrate and synthesize. In addition, the candidate must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures. Problem solving, a critical skill demanded of physicians, requires all of these intellectual abilities. Candidates must be able to perform these problem-solving skills in a timely fashion.

Behavioral Attributes, Social Skills and Professional Expectations
Candidates must be able to fully utilize their intellectual abilities, to exercise good judgment, to promptly complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and to develop mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to effectively handle and manage heavy workloads and to function effectively under stress. They must be able to adapt to changing environments and to learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of patients. Candidates must care for all individuals in a respectful and effective manner regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other protected status identified in the University’s Non-Discrimination Policy. Professionalism, compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest and motivation are all qualities that are expected throughout the educational processes.

Any concerns about the content or application of these technical standards should be referred to the VUSM Director of Admissions, or the VUSM Associate Dean for Medical Student Affairs.

Content current as of May 11, 2019