Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Using the Humanities to Teach Interpersonal and Communication Skills and Professionalism


To improve resident’s interpersonal and communication skills and professionalism


1. Residents will develop a deeper understanding of professional and communication issues.
2. Residents will begin to explore their own feelings regarding their practice of medicine using narratives.

Learning Activity:

The authors describe weekly case based small group discussions focusing on such topics as medical errors, ethical issues, medical malpractice, and racism. Examples of discussion questions are given in the article. Specific readings designed to deepen the reflections of the discussion group are given throughout the year; these include novels, essays, and journal articles by physicians. Residents are also encouraged to write about their experiences with patients.
Active participation and discussion by senior faculty help residents reflect on and integrate this experience into their daily activity. Senior faculty were trained in problem based learning and group facilitation through the medical school in order to develop their skills in small group facilitation. As an alternative, behavioral science faculty or social workers might also be helpful in facilitating the discussions.


The authors present a theoretical model for assessment of this curriculum. Currently, they assess this module through required attendance and participation. Interpersonal and communication skills are assessed via a 360 evaluation from physicians, nurses, and patients.
A reflective narrative delineating their experiences and summarizing key individual learning points might be an additional method of assessment. These reflective narratives could become part of the resident’s portfolio. The narratives could be assessed by the Program Director using a standard checklist or rubric.

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