Background: Musculoskeletal problems are a common
reason why patients present for medical treatment. The purpose of
the present study was to review the curricula of Canadian medical
schools to determine whether they prepare their students for the demands
of practice with respect to musculoskeletal problems.
Methods: The amount of time spent on musculoskeletal
education at each of Canada’s medical schools was reviewed
by surveying the directors (or equivalents) of all sixteen undergraduate musculoskeletal
programs. With use of data from this survey and the Association
of American Medical Colleges’ guide to curricula, the percentage
of the total curriculum devoted to musculoskeletal education was
determined. The prevalence of disorders related to the musculoskeletal
system among patients of primary care physicians was determined
on an international basis by reviewing the literature and on a local basis
by surveying all primary care physicians affiliated with the University
of British Columbia’s Department of Family Medicine.
Results: The curriculum analysis revealed that,
on the average, medical schools in Canada devoted 2.26% (range,
0.61% to 4.81%) of their curriculum time to musculoskeletal
education. The questionnaires completed by the directors of the
undergraduate programs indicated widespread dissatisfaction with
the musculoskeletal education process and, specifically, with the amount
of time devoted to musculoskeletal education. Our literature review
and survey of local family physicians revealed that between 13.7% and
27.8% of North American patients presenting to a primary
care physician have a chief symptom that is directly related to
the musculoskeletal system.
Conclusion: There is a marked discrepancy between
the musculoskeletal knowledge and skill requirements of a primary
care physician and the time devoted to musculoskeletal education
in Canadian medical schools.