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Competency of Future Pediatricians Caring for Children With Behavioral and Mental Health Problems

Green C, Leyenaar JK, Turner AL, Leslie LK
Pub Med #: 

Background and Objectives
There is an urgent need to prepare pediatricians to care for children with behavioral and mental health (B/MH) conditions. In this study, we evaluate the perceived competence of pediatric residents and recent graduates in the assessment and treatment of B/MH conditions, characterize variation in competence across residency programs, and identify program characteristics associated with high competence.

Cross-sectional survey of applicants for the initial certifying examination in pediatrics. Questions were focused on (1) who should be competent in B/MH skills, (2) institutional support around B/MH training, and (3) perceived competence in 7 B/MH assessment skills and 9 treatment skills. Competence was rated on a 5-point scale, and high levels of assessment and treatment competence were defined as scores of ≥4. Composite measures for B/MH assessment and treatment were calculated as mean scores for each domain. We examined variation in residents’ self-reported competence across programs and used linear regression to identify factors associated with high levels of competence at the program level.

Of applicants, 62.3% responded to the survey (n = 2086). Of these, 32.8% (n = 595) reported high competence in assessment skills and 18.9% (n = 337) in treatment skills. There were large variations in reported competence across programs. Respondents from smaller programs (<30 trainees) reported higher competence in assessment and treatment than those from large programs (P < .001).

Current and recent pediatric trainees do not report high levels of perceived competence in the assessment and treatment of children with B/MH conditions. The substantial variation across programs indicates that the pediatric community should create standards for B/MH training.