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The NBME Test: A Physician’s Final Exam

Jeffrey H. Dover
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Atlanta Auto Accident and Medical Malpractice Attorney

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3/14/2011
Jeffrey H. Dover
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When being treated for various medical conditions, including cancer, it is comforting to know that your doctor has an advanced level of knowledge on the subject. To ensure that all physicians do, there is a nationally administered examination that all Medical Doctors (MDs) and Doctors of Osteopathy (DOs) are required to pass. The test, administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), must be passed before any doctor can be licensed by a state.

The test, known as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), is actually administered in three parts over the career of a training physician. In addition to passing the exam, physicians must also complete a year of residency or internship before they are nationally licensed and can apply for state licensure.

The three parts of the USMLE focus on different qualifications a physician must have prior to licensure:
  • Step 1: To pass this portion of the exam, a physician must be able to apply scientific knowledge to the practice of medicine. The content covered can includes a number of different general topics, including individual organ systems.

  • Step 2: A physician must show the ability to apply his or her medical knowledge to real life scenarios to pass this part of the USMLE. One of the areas covered in this portion of the test is the diagnosis of diseases.
  • Step 3: A physician must demonstrate the ability to practice without any supervision. This portion of the exam is especially important, because a physician is fully responsible for his or her actions and mistakes in practice following licensure - including negligence and malpractice.
Typically, the exam sponsored by the NBME is taken after a physician has completed the required year of on-the-job training. By making the passing of this exam a requirement for all physicians, the likelihood of patients ever receiving care from someone who is fundamentally unqualified goes down significantly.

Unfortunately, instances of negligence and malpractice still occur despite physicians having passed the exam.


Category: Medical Malpractice


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