Instructional Training Compared with Self-Study for Pulmonary Function Test Interpretation

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BACKGROUND: Pulmonary diseases have considerable prognostic relevance for all-cause mortality. Most patients with lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are treated by general practitioners. Understanding the clinical consequences such as pulmonary hyperinflation or reduced diffusion capacity is important for the management and prognosis of patients with chronic respiratory disorders. Therefore, the interpretation of pulmonary function testing (PFT) results needs to see more emphasis in the medical education curriculum.

OBJECTIVE: To develop PFT training for final-year medical students and to compare the efficacy of instructional training to self-reliant textbook study.

METHODS: A two-armed randomized control trial compares learning outcomes in PFT interpretation. A total of 25 final-year medical students were selected at random into the 1) instructional training group or 2) self-reliant textbook study group on PFT interpretation. The learning time for both groups was 2 hours. The duration of the written pre- and post-training examinations was 60 minutes each. Both exams had a knowledge section (30 questions, maximum 120 points) and a skills section (11 case studies, maximum 75 points).

RESULTS: The instructional training group acquired significantly more knowledge and, in particular, higher skill levels when compared with the self-reliant reading group. In the reading group, knowledge scores increased from 48 to 60% (12%) and skills scores increased from 14 to 22% (8%), whereas in the instructional group, knowledge increased from 47 to 71% (24%) and skills from 18 to 58% (40%). A multivariate analysis (Pillai's Trace: 0.633; P < 0.001) as well as follow-up univariate analyses reveal that these differences are statistically significant (knowledge: F = 8.811, df = 1, P = 0.007; skills F = 33.965, df = 1, P < 0.001). Interestingly, there was no significant group effect in the pure knowledge gain about respiratory disorders per se.

CONCLUSION: The self-reliant study group was less able to translate their newly acquired knowledge into interpretation of comprehensive PFT reports. A mandatory 2-hour instructional training greatly enhances the students' knowledge and skills about PFT interpretation. Obligatory PFT instructional training should therefore be included in the students' curriculum.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-580
Number of pages15
Journal ATS scholar / American Thoracic Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC8751683
Scopus 85144910075
ORCID /0000-0002-4280-6534/work/127535406
ORCID /0000-0002-8085-174X/work/142251270