ESHRE Clinical Embryologist certification: the first 10 years

Borut Kovačič, Fernando J Prados, Catherine Plas, Bryan J Woodward, Greta Verheyen, Liliana Ramos, Sirpa Mäkinen, Susanna Jamina Apter, Francesca Vidal, Søren Ziebe, M Cristina Magli, Kersti Lundin, Arne Sunde, Carlos E Plancha


    STUDY QUESTION: What has the ESHRE programme 'ESHRE Certification for Clinical Embryologists' achieved after 10 years?

    SUMMARY ANSWER: The post-exam analysis showed a pass rate of 60% for Clinical and 50% for Senior Clinical Embryologists and a high level of internal consistency of all exams, leading to a total of 773 certified Clinical and 493 Senior Clinical Embryologists over the decade.

    WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: In an ESHRE survey on the educational and professional status of Clinical Embryology in Europe, it was found that education of laboratory personnel working in the field of assisted reproduction is highly variable between countries. In 2008, ESHRE introduced a programme, curriculum and certification in the field of Clinical Embryology. Knowledge gained by postgraduate study of recommended literature, following a clear curriculum, is verified by a written two-level exam for obtaining a certificate for Clinical (basic) or Senior Clinical (advanced) Embryologists. With a total of 1266 certificates awarded over a period of 10 years and recognition by the Union Européenne des Médecins Spécialistes and their Council for European Specialists Medical Assessment, the ESHRE Clinical Embryology exams have become an internationally recognized educational standard in the field of Clinical Embryology.

    STUDY DESIGN SIZE DURATION: A retrospective analysis of all applications for ESHRE Clinical (2009-2018) and Senior Clinical Embryologist Certification (2008-2018) and exam results of the first decade was carried out by the Steering Committee for Clinical Embryologist Certification.

    PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS SETTING METHODS: A total of 2894 applications for ESHRE Certification for Clinical Embryologists and the results of 10 exams for the Clinical (1478 candidates) and 11 exams for Senior Clinical (987 candidates) levels were analysed. A detailed post-exam retrospective analysis was performed regarding difficulty, discrimination and reliability levels of 1600 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) with a single best answer among four options, from eight different curriculum topics (Basic cell biology, Genetics, Developmental biology, Female reproduction, Male reproduction, IVF laboratory, Cryopreservation and Laboratory management), representing the core theoretical knowledge of Clinical Embryology. Difficulty levels of the MCQs were subsequently compared regarding each topic and each yearly exam. The participation and success rates in the ESHRE Clinical Embryology exams were also assessed in terms of the educational and geographic backgrounds of candidates.

    MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Over the 10 years studied, the mean pass rate for the Clinical Embryologist exam was 60% (range 41-86%), and for the Senior Clinical Embryologist exam was 50% (range 34-81%). On average, 63% European candidates and 35% non-European candidates passed the Clinical Embryologist exam, while 52% European candidates and 31% non-European candidates passed the Senior Clinical Embryologist exam. The candidates' educational level impacted on the success of the Clinical Embryologist exam but not of the Senior Clinical Embryologist exam. The mean difficulty indices by study topic showed that in the period of 10 years, there were no statistically significant differences between topics, for either the Clinical or Senior Clinical Embryologist exams. However, the overall exam difficulty varied between years. Reassuringly, the exam MCQ discrimination and reliability indices always showed a high level of internal consistency in all exams.

    LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION: Some data from the initial ESHRE certification programme were not obtained electronically, in particular data for education, implying tables and figures reflect the specified valid data periods. Several countries exhibit different study profiles for those working in ART laboratories, such that laboratory technicians/technologists predominate in some countries, while in others only biologists and medical doctors are allowed to work with human embryos. Such differences could consequently affect the exam performance of candidates from specific countries.

    WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: The ESHRE exams on Clinical Embryology are the most widely, internationally accepted tests of knowledge in the rapidly growing area of human reproduction. Clinical Embryology is increasingly recognized as a specific discipline for scientific staff who are collaborating closely with clinicians in managing human infertility through medically assisted reproduction. The analysis of the first 10 years of application of a two-level exam for Clinical Embryology shows a consistent high quality and reliability of the exam and MCQs used. These results represent an important follow-up of the quality of the ESHRE Certification programme for Clinical Embryologists, and convincingly position Clinical Embryology in the wider group of health disciplines that are harmonized through professional bodies such as ESHRE and European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The exams provide a clear step towards the increasing professional recognition and establishment of Clinical Embryology within health systems at both European and international level.

    STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS: No competing interest. All costs of the Steering Committee meetings were covered by ESHRE.

    TidsskriftHuman reproduction open
    Udgave nummer3
    Sider (fra-til)hoaa026
    StatusUdgivet - 2020


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