Does higher performance in a national licensing examination predict better quality of care? A longitudinal observational study of Ethiopian anesthetists

Yohannes Molla Asemu, Tegbar Yigzaw, Firew Ayalew Desta, Fedde Scheele, Thomas van den Akker

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    Background: Ethiopia made a national licensing examination (NLE) for associate clinician anesthetists a requirement for entry into the practice workforce. However, there is limited empirical evidence on whether the NLE scores of associate clinicians predict the quality of health care they provide in low-income countries. This study aimed to assess the association between anesthetists’ NLE scores and three selected quality of patient care indicators. Methods: A multicenter longitudinal observational study was conducted between January 8 and February 7, 2023, to collect quality of care (QoC) data on surgical patients attended by anesthetists (n = 56) who had taken the Ethiopian anesthetist NLE since 2019. The three QoC indicators were standards for safe anesthesia practice, critical incidents, and patient satisfaction. The medical records of 991 patients were reviewed to determine the standards for safe anesthesia practice and critical incidents. A total of 400 patients responded to the patient satisfaction survey. Multivariable regressions were employed to determine whether the anesthetist NLE score predicted QoC indicators. Results: The mean percentage of safe anesthesia practice standards met was 69.14%, and the mean satisfaction score was 85.22%. There were 1,120 critical incidents among 911 patients, with three out of five experiencing at least one. After controlling for patient, anesthetist, facility, and clinical care-related confounding variables, the NLE score predicted the occurrence of critical incidents. For every 1% point increase in the total NLE score, the odds of developing one or more critical incidents decreased by 18% (aOR = 0.82; 95% CI = 0.70 = 0.96; p = 0.016). No statistically significant associations existed between the other two QoC indicators and NLE scores. Conclusion: The NLE score had an inverse relationship with the occurrence of critical incidents, supporting the validity of the examination in assessing graduates’ ability to provide safe and effective care. The lack of an association with the other two QoC indicators requires further investigation. Our findings may help improve education quality and the impact of NLEs in Ethiopia and beyond.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number188
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalBMC Anesthesiology
    Early online date27 May 2024
    Publication statusPublished - 2024


    • Anesthetists
    • Associate clinicians
    • Licensing examination
    • Patient outcome
    • Quality of care

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