OBJECTIVE: To determine the extent to which various specialties prepare residents in the broad competencies required for primary care practice and to propose guidelines for improving generalist physician training., DATA SOURCES: Leading causes of morbidity and mortality, 1991 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data, expert reports, and the special requirements for residency training., DESIGN: From the data sources we identified the common presenting conditions and diagnoses that broadly trained generalist physicians could be expected to manage in primary care practice. We then compiled a list of 60 requisite residency training components grouped according to seven practice criteria for generalist physicians. Using the special requirements for residency training for family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and emergency medicine, we determined the extent to which the requirements addressed the 60 components and continuity-of-care training., RESULTS: Almost all of the 60 generalist training components were required by family practice (95%), internal medicine (91%), and pediatrics (91%), compared with emergency medicine (42%) and obstetrics and gynecology (47%). Family practice, internal medicine, and pediatric residencies also require lengthy, well-defined continuity-of-care experiences., CONCLUSION: Family practice, internal medicine, and pediatric programs prepare residents in the broad competencies necessary for primary care practice. To train competent generalist physicians, we recommend that residency programs require training in 90% or more of the 60 components, 50% or more of the components in each of the seven categories, and a continuity-of-care experience for a panel of patients during at least 10% of the entire residency training period.
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