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Standardized Patients Teach Skills and Empathy

Lead author: Dinah Wisenberg Brin
Submitted by: Mary Launder, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

This is a great article to pass along to anyone interested in what the world of simulation is about as well as its positive outcomes.

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A Pilot Project Exploring Medical Students’ Barriers to Screening for Intimate Partner Violence and Reproductive Coercion

Lead Author: Sarah E. Stumbar, MD, MPH
Submitted by: Catherine Hagele, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Why is it that most health care practitioners do not routinely screen patients for intimate partner violence (IPV)? This third-year family medicine clerkship included a pregnancy options counseling OSCE aiming to explore students’ internal barriers to screening patients for IPV. Even though the educational module included scripted screening questions, students reported a major barrier to screening was difficulty finding the words with which to ask the questions, thereby suggesting that these kinds of practice encounters may be more effective, offering a performance model that can support skills acquisition.

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ASPE SOBP Receive Special Contribution Award

Submitted by: Todd Lash, Publications Committee Chair

The ASPE Standards of Best Practice (SOBP) received a special contribution award for advancing SP methodologies in China. The award came from the China SP Practice Teaching Guidance Committee (CSPC) and the China International Association for Promotion of Science and Technology (CIAPST).

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Where Improv Meets Dementia: Play Along With Your Partner's Strange Conversation

By: Gary Rotstein
Submitted by: Michael Maury, UC-San Diego

Author Gary Rotstein states in this article, “Performers in improvisational sketch comedy learn basic guidelines: Speak in positives, think of your partner, listen well, give helpful prompts” and “don’t be long-winded.” He goes on to say, “Caregivers for those with dementia rarely hear that same advice, but they should — it might ease a lot of stress on both sides.” Many of us in Medical Education have seen the benefits and value of utilizing humanitarian practices such as improvisational theatre to better communication between patients and caregivers. Could the art-form of improv be utilized to better communication with patients living with dementia? Please read on to see how improvisational theatre skills have worked for Rachael Wonderlin and Christopher Wright of the “Agreeing to Remember” workshops at Steel City Improv Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA. Read the full article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.

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Communication Skills and the Problem with Fake Patients

By: George Gillett, Fourth Year Medical Student
Submitted by Kathy Herzberger, Loma Linda School of Medicine

George Gillett, who was a fourth year medical student when he wrote this article, expressed an interesting perspective regarding empathy and standardized “fake” patients. Included in this discussion is a suggestion from Anu Atluru, MD that “improv’s fundamental principles of honesty and spontaneity” might be helpful in teaching students how to acknowledge feelings without the rote “I’m sorry to hear that…” The opinions expressed are certainly issues to ponder as we develop future communication curriculum and assessment.

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Maximizing the Acquisition of Core Communication Skills at the Start of Medical Training

Lead Author: Hasan Mohiaddin
Submitted by: Marsha Harman, Rush University

How does contact with actual patients affect how medical students develop communication skills, and how does it impact their performance in an SP encounter? First year medical students at Imperial College London learn communication skills through lectures, small group teaching, and SP encounters. This study compared two groups of first-year students; the study group experienced repeated contact with real patients as part of a volunteer organization aiming to reduce isolation in elderly inpatients, while the control group received only the formal curriculum on communication.

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The Link Between Health Literacy & Cancer Communication

Author: Peggy Eastman
Submitted by: Janice Radway, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

In an era of increasingly complex advances in oncology, how can health professionals help cancer patients with low health literacy better understand their diagnoses and treatment options? In an effort to improve cancer communication strategies with patients, the National Cancer Policy Forum (NCPF) convened a meeting of invited speakers in Washington, D.C. At the meeting, the point was repeatedly made that skills in cancer communication can be taught and learned, and it is the responsibility of health professionals to make sure all their patients (including those with low health literacy) truly comprehend the information they are being given. We as SP Educators know that SP methodology is an excellent tool for practicing these communication skills.

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Assessment of Clinical Empathy Among Medical Students Using the Jefferson Scale of Empathy-Student Version

By: Shahid H. Mirani, Noor A. Shaikh, and Amber Tahir
Submitted by: Dan Brown, Emory University

This study was conducted among medical students of Ghulam Muhammad Mahar Medical College, using a self-administered and self-perceived inventory called the Jefferson Scale of Empathy-Student Version. It compared the empathy scores by gender, by year of medical school, and by career preference. Its findings were comparable to similar studies, in that empathy scores decline over the course of medical school. The study concludes that it is “very important that we pay attention to nurture our medical students to have empathy rather than lose it under the stress of academic performance.”

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Having the Talk: When Treatment Becomes End-of-Life Care

By: Aliyan Baruchin
Submitted by: Mary Launder, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

Conversations about end-of-life care are among the most important interactions doctors and patients have. But for health care providers of all ages, backgrounds, and specialties, they may also prove to be the most challenging.

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You’re Not as Good as You Think (at Communicating)

By: Valerie DeBenedette
Submitted by: Michael Maury, UC-San Diego

The author of this article, Valeria DeBenedette, puts it simply, “Having a lot of clinical knowledge in rheumatology is good. But a boatload of knowledge may not mean much if you aren’t getting it across to the patient so that he or she understands”. For those of us in Standardized Patient education, we know that clear communication is key to a patient’s adherence and will help boost one’s confidence in their health care. We provide opportunities for future doctors to practice these communication skills, but are our efforts enough? As DeBenedette writes, “Communication skills are taught in medical school, often with standardized patients played by actors”. She goes on to report that Dr. Susmita Pati, M.D., chief medical program advisor at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, states “but those [SP encounters] are ideal situations and not real life.” Perhaps we have some questions to ponder. Is there something more we could be doing to help mold future physicians into compassionate, clear communicators as they sharpen their clinical skills?

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