Transferable skills of incoming medical students and their development over the first academic year: The United Arab Emirates experience.
Increasingly, it is being recognised in higher and medical education that learners should be adequately prepared for the unpredictable nature of professional practice. Several generic or transferable skills or capabilities (e.g., communication, information handling) that will enable graduates to function in an ever-changing professional world have been identified. Using a validated inventory comprising six categories of transferable skills, three cohorts of incoming male and female medical students at a Gulf university documented their level of practice and confidence for 31 skills. The exercise was repeated a year later. New medical students identified computer and organisational skills and the ability to manage their learning as strengths, but scores for technical and numeracy, information handling and presentation and communication skills suggested that learners generally required guidance. A year later, despite considerable self-reported information handling and communication skills development, learners generally did not consider themselves self-sufficient. A significant gender difference emerged, with incoming males reporting less experience and confidence in many skills. This gap was reduced but did not disappear over the first academic year. An audit such as this may be useful for identifying individual skills levels as well as providing insight into shortcomings in the academic programme in terms of opportunities for transferable skills development.