A survey comparison of educational interventions for teaching pneumatic otoscopy to medical students

Alanna Higgins Joyce*, Maya Raman, Jennifer L. Beaumont, Heather Heiman, Mark Adler, Suzanne M. Schmidt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Though pneumatic otoscopy improves accurate diagnosis of ear disease, trainees lack proficiency. We evaluated the effect of three different training techniques on medical students' subsequent reported use of basic and pneumatic otoscopy in patient encounters. Methods: Pediatric clerkship students participated in an ear exam workshop with randomization to one of three educational interventions: task trainer (Life/form®, Fort Atkinson WI), instructional video, or peer practice. Each student received an insufflator bulb and logbook to record otoscopic exams and completed an 18-item anonymous survey at clerkship conclusion. Results: 115 of 150 students (77%) completed the survey. There was no significant difference in number of basic or pneumatic otoscopic exams performed based on method of training. Most students (68-72%) felt more likely to perform pneumatic otoscopy after training. Though the majority of students performed basic otoscopy on patients when an ear exam was indicated, they used pneumatic otoscopy less than 10% of the time. Students reported significant barriers to otoscopy: time, access to equipment, cerumen impaction, patient hold, and anxiety. Student comments described a culture where insufflation was neither practiced nor valued by supervising physicians. Conclusion: Training in pneumatic otoscopy can increase student comfort, but barriers exist to using the skill in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number79
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 12 2019


  • Ambulatory medicine
  • Medical education research
  • Medical student
  • Otoscopy
  • Pediatrics
  • Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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