Goals and Objectives

Goals and objectives establish what we expect residents to be able to do at various stages of their training.

Developing objectives can be a time-consuming task, even for experienced Program Directors.  They are, however, extremely helpful in defining what our residents should be learning and why specific rotations should exist.  If possible, enlist the help of someone from your RPC who is skilled in medical education and objective development to create or review your objectives.  The objectives should indicate what knowledge, skills, and attitudes residents should possess at the end of a period of training.

Review the current Objectives of Training and Specialty Training Requirements developed by your Specialty Committee. These establish the strict and necessary components of the program.  Within these requirements, it is up to each program to develop its own unique focus.  This is an opportunity for the Program Director and RPC to create a program which draws from its strengths.

In designing objectives, it might help to ask these questions:

"What kind of specialists can our program train particularly well?"
"What knowledge, skills, and attitudes do they need to do that job?"
This will identify your program's objectives.  For example, a program which is geared to training surgeons for remote communities would likely emphasize different skills or encourage different electives than one primarily geared to preparing residents for research careers in urban centres.  Both would teach the basics, but the emphasis and opportunities may be different.

"In which formats or settings can residents best learn those necessary abilities?"
This will identify the educational rotations that will be needed.  Perhaps some objectives are better achieved through a seminar or research project, rather than through direct patient care.

"What will residents learn in each rotation?"
The answers will define each individual rotation's objectives.  Objectives can be thought of (and written) as completing the sentence: 
  • "At the end of this rotation, a resident will be able to …" with the relevant knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
If a resident does a rotation several times in his/her training, but with different expectations of performance and independence, this should be reflected in the objectives.

It is more important to try and articulate the objective concepts rather than to struggle for design perfection.  Here are some rough examples of objectives which address knowledge, skills, and attitudes:

At the end of this two-month ICU rotation, a PGY2 rotating resident will be able to:
  • Describe and explain the typical hemodynamic changes of cardiogenic shock.  Given a patient with this condition, recognize the pattern and institute appropriate inotropic therapy.
  • Using the techniques taught in this rotation, correctly place a central venous introducer and PA catheter and use it to correctly measure intracardiac pressures and cardiac output.
  • Demonstrate insight into his/her own skills and limitations by appropriately seeking advice and consultation
  • Describe the usual concerns of families of critically ill patients.  Demonstrate insight and empathy to these concerns by effectively identifying and addressing them during family conferences.
Rotational Objectives are particularly useful for:

Designing the program
  • Is this rotation necessary?
  • How long/how many rotations of this does a resident need to achieve the objectives?
Evaluating a rotation
  • Are residents learning the objectives and why or why not?
  • Which of the possible services offering this rotation should get residents?
Evaluating residents
  • Did the resident learn what was expected and why or why not?
  • If the resident had problems, what specifically could he/she not do that most other residents could do at this point?
The College requires program objectives and rotational objectives for every rotation, including electives.  They should be reviewed and revised regularly and ideally rotational evaluations should be tied to them.