Explanations for the 2020-2022 Official Step 2 CK Practice Questions

Update: The March 2021 pdf is still identical outside of some minor formatting changes.

The NBME released a completely new set of questions in March 2020, which was the first major update since basically 2015. (The August 2020 pdf is the same.)

The 2019 set, which is completely different, is available and explained here for more free questions!

These are in the order of the PDF linked above.

 

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Explanations for the 2021 Official Step 1 Practice Questions

This year’s set was updated in February 2021 (PDF here).

The asterisks (*) signify a new question, of which there are only 2 (#24 and 53). The 2020 set explanations and pdf are available here; the comments on that post may be helpful if you have questions.

The less similar 2019 set is still available here for those looking for more free questions, and even older sets are all listed here. The 2019 and 2020 sets, for example, differed by 36 questions (in case you were curious).

 

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Scheduling Slack

From Alan’s Weiss’ classic Getting Started in Consulting:

Medical consultants advise doctors never to schedule wall-to-wall appointments during the day, because inevitably there are emergencies, late patients, complications on routine exams, and so forth. These create a domino effect by day’s end, and some very unhappy scheduled patients. Instead, they advise some built-in slack time that can absorb the contingencies. If not needed, slack time provides valuable respite.

Ha.

I read this book years ago when I was a resident and came across this passage when reviewing my Kindle highlights the other day.

Perhaps there are consultants in real-life operating as Dr. Weiss suggests, but this common-sense approach to sustainable medical practice is not what many large health systems employ.

In my wife’s old outpatient academic practice, lunchtime wasn’t respite. It was an overbook slot, and her schedule was so jam-packed that there were always patients clamoring to squeeze in.

In order to make that all work, the average doctor spends 1-2 hours charting at home per day.

Contrast that with her current solo practice where she has complete autonomy: her patients aren’t scheduled wall to wall, and she has time for the inevitable emergencies, hospitalizations, collateral phone calls, prior auths, and the other vagaries of modern medical practice.

I’m proud of the practice she’s built–during a pandemic no less!–but it’s crazy that even academic medicine has become so corporatized in its paradigm that it was easier to craft her own business in order to practice on anything approaching the terms that would best serve her patients and herself.

 

Attending

A few separate passages I’ve combined from Dr. Ronald Epstein’s Attending: Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity:

Altogether, I saw too much harshness, mindlessness, and inhumanity. Medical school was dominated by facts, pathways, and mechanisms; residency was about learning to diagnose, treat, and do procedures, framed by a pit-of-the-stomach dread that you might kill someone by missing something or not knowing enough.

Good doctors need to be self-aware to practice at their best; self-awareness needs to be in the moment, not just Monday-morning quarterbacking; and no one had a road map.

The great physician-teacher William Osler once said, “We miss more by not seeing than by not knowing.”

The fast pace of clinical practice—accelerated by electronic records—requires juggling multiple tasks seemingly simultaneously. Although commonly thought of as multitasking, multitasking is a misnomer—we actually alternate among tasks. Each time we switch tasks we need time to recover and, during the recovery period, we are less effective. Psychologists call this interruption recovery failure, which sounds a bit like those computer error messages we all dread. We increasingly feel as if we are victims of distractions rather than in control of them.

Outside of the OR (and not always even then), it’s rare to find an environment that promotes the space for deep focus and self-awareness. Mindfulness, insofar as a daily approach to medical practice, is something that goes against the grain of one’s surroundings.

Good doctors need to be self-aware to practice at their best; self-awareness needs to be in the moment, not just Monday-morning quarterbacking.

I like that. Medicine is generally ripe for Monday-morning quarterbacking (and radiology in particular due to the permanent, accessible, and objective nature of the imaging record).

But doctors don’t work in vacuums. We are humans.

Consider for a moment the discipline of human factors engineering:

Human factors engineering is the discipline that attempts to identify and address these issues. It is the discipline that takes into account human strengths and limitations in the design of interactive systems that involve people, tools and technology, and work environments to ensure safety, effectiveness, and ease of use. A human factors engineer examines a particular activity in terms of its component tasks, and then assesses the physical demands, skill demands, mental workload, team dynamics, aspects of the work environment (e.g., adequate lighting, limited noise, or other distractions), and device design required to complete the task optimally. In essence, human factors engineering focuses on how systems work in actual practice, with real—and fallible—human beings at the controls, and attempts to design systems that optimize safety and minimize the risk of error in complex environments.

(I first found that passage plagiarized on page 8 of the American Board of Radiology’s Non-interpretive Skills Guide.)

Despite the rise of checklists and evidence-based medicine, humans have been almost designed out of healthcare entirely. Rarely is anything in the system–from the overburdened schedules, administrative tasks, constant messaging, system-wide emails, the cluttered EMR, or the byzantine billing/coding game–designed to help humans take the time and mental space to sit in front of a patient (or an imaging study, for that matter) and fully be, in that moment, a doctor.